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

Physician Assisted Death…Is it an Option?

On Monday I talked about my visit to the Medical campus at The University of Colorado Heath Sciences Center’s monthly ethics discussion. This month they discussed Physician Assisted Death (PAD). The first thing that caught my attention was the shift from Physician Assisted Suicide to Physician Assisted Death. What caused the shift in terminology? Is it a way to make the legislatures in our country look upon these actions differently? Does it take away the stigma of suicide? Does it differentiate between suicide as we traditionally think of it and as a choice in dying?

The speaker presented some very interesting statistics that has been collected since 1997 about those who choose Physician Assisted Death. The most startling was that of all the prescriptions written with the intention of PAD only 64% actually follow through on taking the medications to end their life. Here are some other interesting statistics:

*74% were over 65 years of age

*54% had a college degree or higher

*85% were enrolled in hospice

*94% were insured

*65% had a cancer diagnosis

*94% were Caucasian

*62% were men

I share these statistics because we need to understand the outcomes when we institute societal, cultural, and legal shifts related to end-of-life care.

I’ve spent over twenty years sharing the journey of those facing chronic and life-threatening illnesses. I’ve always had a copy of Derek Humphry’s book Final Exit on my bookshelf. I’ve had numerous clients ask to borrow the book as they think about end-of-life care. In each of the cases I have always found that having the book available didn’t encourage taking one’s own life, but it did take the taboo out of the topic. It opened up many dialogues about suffering, pain, depression, assumptions about life, and a host of other topics.

When we de-stigmatize PAD we can begin to have open and honest conversations concerning advanced directives. These directives are important not only between the patient and the medical provider, but for the person who is your Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare. Everyone needs to be on the same page. There are only four states that have PAD in the United States. I know that many more states are going to begin these conversations and that’s an important step, allowing us all to have options in our end-of-life care!!

Are you and your family facing a diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Looking to explore your views about end-of-life care through art?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Follow me on Twitter: @GregKatz2

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

Fear…It Doesn’t Do a Body Good

Fear is a topic that we talk about as something to “get over”. We’re told to face our fears, overcome our fears, and accept our fears and learn to cope with them. Why are we so fixated on fear? We know from years of research that fear creates metabolic changes. It paralyzes us emotionally and stunts us spiritually. If you go search “fear” on Amazon there are 150,052 entries for you to peruse. Do you have that much time and energy to resolve fear?

We tout the benefits of being above the animal kingdom with the ability to think and reason; perhaps that’s what’s getting in our way from health and healing! You can face your fear and do it anyway according to Susan Jeffers, but that may be easier said than done. What if we took on the Buddhist philosophy of non-attachment, would that be easier?

I was browsing Panache Desai’s book Discovering Your Soul Signature and he discusses fear. He shares, “Fear is an energy. It is an experience. But holding on to fear is unique to our human nature. Consider this: Every living being feels its fear and shake sit off. Cows, deer, fox, even bears-they all feel fear and move on. But we humans don’t. We accumulate fear. We hoard it and store it in our bodies.” That’s eye opening! How can we learn to interact with fear like water rolling off a duck; experience it in the moment as a message, but let it go once it served its purpose.

I believe in fear as a messenger. I first read Gavin de Becker’s book The Gift of Fear in 1996. His positive spin on fear as a personal and cultural alert system sits well with me. He wrote his book in the wake of the bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma City. In addition, the news had a number of stories of disgruntled employees returning and killing those at the location of their previous employers.   Pay attention to fear. The visceral response is real and is attempting to get your attention.

Fear has a place just not center stage. Utilize fear if it allows you to be in the moment, but holding on to it keeps you in the past. Take a lesson from the cow, the deer, and the fox and allow fear to bring your focus to a particular threat, but don’t allow that threat to color every aspect of your life!

Facing adversity and looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to release fear through creativity?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Follow me on Twitter: @GregKatz2

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

Play to Your Strengths

What happens if everyone including you believed that our life would take a specific direction and then a twist of fate changes that direction? What if everything you worked for crashes and burns and you have to reinvent yourself? Know anyone like this? Well if you follow football then you do know someone in this position, Tim Tebow.

Tebow, the young player with enormous promise had a difficult time in the NFL. As it turned out his professional career as a player was short lived, but he has reinvented himself. During his time in the NFL his fame, constant news coverage, and his faith led him to create a foundation helping children going through tough times. Proof of this “Phoenix rising from the ashes”, Tebow is now part of the team on ABC’s Good Morning America. His segment has been titled Motivate Me Monday!

The first down of Tebow’s segment was a hit. The story showed the resilience of ten-year-old Devon Jackson. Jackson was diagnosed with meningitis at age eight and had both feet amputated six inches below the knee. His passion for football was intercepted but not for long. The young athlete learned to walk on prosthetics, but he was still benched from playing because he couldn’t run until someone donated a pair of blades returning the young football player to the playing field.

Jackson shows amazing resilience. When asked about what he loves about being able to play he shared, “I love the way the wind feels in my face.” When I heard the young athletes experience I thought about what do I take for granted in my daily life. If something as simple as the wind in one’s face is a blessing then what else are we allowing passing us by without noticing the magic of the experience?

The segment showed that both young and a bit older can recreate a life of gratitude. Tebow and Jackson both took adverse situations and utilized their strength and resilience to achieve greater life experiences. Devon Jackson is Tebow’s starter and that makes Tebow a great coach, inspiration, and motivator. I hope I can take the lesson from Tebow’s playbook and utilize my own strengths motivating others to enhanced health and healing!

Facing adversity?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to play to your strengths creatively?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Follow me on Twitter: @GregKatz2

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Emotional Health, living with chronic illness, overcoming adversity, Spirituality and Health

Lessons from the Road Part 3: People at Work

Ever cross the country on one of the Interstate highways created during the Eisenhower administration? I can’t imagine traveling cross-country and having to meander through small towns trying to find the most direct route to my destination. I’m grateful for these highways and byways and for the men and women who keep the roads in good shape.

There are signs on the roadside where work is being done that says, “Hit a worker and receive a $10,000 fine and 14 years in jail.” That’s quite a hefty price to pay, but we’ve been warned so driving recklessly through these work zones is sheer stupidity. It always makes me nervous driving through these zones because there are always anxious, tail riding drivers behind me; no matter, I stand my ground and drive the reduced speed limit. We need these roads to be in the best condition possible to make travel safe.

The same is true as we live our lives. Our personal infrastructure is critical to living a good life. Our physical, emotional, and spiritual lives are always in flux. There are definitive steps we can take to insure that we keep ourselves in the best possible state-of-being. We can pay attention to the needs of our body, mind, and spirit to provide a foundation for a life filled with health, joy, and peace.

What are the work zones in your life? Where are there areas where you need to slow down, pay attention, and take steps to shore up those aspects of your life? What are you reading? What are you creating? What are you exploring? What actions do you take when you have moments of insight? We know that if you don’t pay attention to your personal infrastructure, just like the roads we travel, your body, mind, and spirit will begin to deteriorate. This deterioration creates physical ailments such as migraines, back pain, and gastro-intestinal trouble as some examples. The huge increase in depression and anxiety across the lifespan is evidence that our emotional infrastructure, as a society, is in need of attention. The number of suicides, and the number of people on antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs is staggering.

Life doesn’t come without a price and I’m not talking about financial. I’m referring to the energy and attention that is required to propel us toward health and healing. We can’t live our lives on autopilot. We need to pay the price such as exercising, praying, meditating, therapy, or creative outlets of our emotional lives. Create your own work zone, it works for our country and it will work for you!

Facing adversity and looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to explore your creative side to use as the roadwork for your body, mind, and spirit?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Follow me on Twitter: @GregKatz2

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

Enjoy Your Own Company

We’re social creatures. We spend most of our days interacting with people in our family, our work situations, and our civic/social arenas. We’re connected by phone and email so we’re never out of reach from anyone. What has become a social world, interacting as part of our human process, has become a noisy world. We’re trying to find more and more ways of being together and sometimes I wonder if it’s because we’re afraid of being alone.

I do make a distinction between alone and lonely. Being alone is a choice we make to cut off from others for some quiet time. Lonely is a social deprivation that for many can lead to many physical, emotional, and spiritual problems. When we’re alone we give ourselves the opportunity to hear our thoughts without interruption. It gives us time to think about what we really want and need so we can set our priorities.

The other aspect of being alone is when we do things singularly. How many times have you decided not to go to the movie, the theater, a party, or a host of other social outlets because there was no one to accompany you? Going alone means enjoying your own company. It allows you to say to yourself, “I’m enough”, in order to achieve that you have to enjoy your own company. You need to make peace with you in all its glory.

Be your own date! When you connect to enjoying your own company you can delve into interests that are uniquely yours, avoiding a go with the flow mentality. You can express yourself through speech, dress, or even affiliations.

Enjoying your own company is about giving the world the you it deserves. It’s allowing your voice to shine through adding to the symphony we all life. We need your voice, your beliefs, and your presence. We need you to share what you know, what you need to learn, and what you can teach. On the flip side, you need to feel confident in who you’ve become. You need to “accentuate the positive”. The world is hoping and expecting you to show up in all your glory.

Facing the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Don’t do it alone?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Learn how to Enjoy your own company through art.  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

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

Life is a Series of Adjustments

It would be wonderful if life were predictable. You may have behaviors that are predictable, but only within a given context. We don’t have any notion of what tomorrow will bring and I’m not saying that just to be cliché. We can make assumptions about what’s ahead of us, but until we live it there are no guarantees.

Think about when you drive a car. You start to drive and your goal is to keep the wheels straight. In order to do that you make adjustments with the steering wheel. Throughout your drive you’ll make minor adjustments multiple times or you would have crashed into numerous other vehicles.

It seems to me that life works the same way. Within certain parameters we live our lives with a certain degree of certainty. We go to the same coffee shop, exercise at the same gym, or go to the same movie theater. However, what happens when there’s a long line at your coffee shop and there’s another shop around the corner? What do you do when the aerobics class you want to take at the gym is full? These are minor adjustments, but they direct you to different actions.

When facing a challenge whether it is health or some other form of life interruption, adjustments become more the norm than the exception. We find ourselves making adjustments with our time and resources. We modify (an adjustment) our workout routines depending on our energy level. We begin to ask questions that are deeper in nature because we’re looking for a solution to the interruption life has set at our feet.

We have to be careful not to over-adjust. I’ve met numerous people who think the way to solve their challenge is to do a complete 180 in their behavior. It’s important to remember that more is not always better. Minor adjustments may be just the thing to keep your life’s status quo.

It’s not uncommon for us to over adjust when we feel anxious, uncertain, or scared. We’ve been conditioned for the quick fix. This is most prominent in the diet industry where big results in a short amount of time headlines every commercial. Learning to take care of your body is paramount to good health and keeping off the weight. If you don’t learn how to “eat” without the program are you willing to make the “program” your new lifestyle instead of a quick fix?

I wrote a post earlier in the week about the importance of learning. We must learn healthful ways of reducing stress, alleviating pain, or minimizing distress. There are resources such as meditation, journaling, or moderate exercise that relieve stress and allow you to become better acquainted with your body, mind, and spirit.

Watch for those minor adjustments through the day. Be conscious of these adjustments and make sure you don’t drive out of your lane!

Facing a challenge in your life?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to ease your adjustments with your creativity?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

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

Mining for Joy

Joy to the World, a famous Christmas carol that presents with vim and vigor. Joy is one of those things we talk a lot about, but it’s really something we feel. It’s a exuberance and elation that seeps from your pores. It surrounds you and it lifts you above the pain and challenges life throws your way.

The challenges we face on the physical, emotional, and spiritual planes rob us of many pleasurable experiences. It leaves us feeling depleted and if you didn’t leave a breadcrumb trail, finding where joy lives can be difficult.

Joseph Campbell said, “Find a place inside where there is joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” That’s a powerful statement. Campbell speaks about the healing powers of joy. He punctuates the need for joy, not as something that is playful, but something that is healing, almost curative for woes.

All to often we think of joy as superfluous. We’ve been brainwashed to believe that joy is luxury. If you ascribe to Campbell’s quote, then you believe that joy is a nonnegotiable component of living a good life. The challenges we face are draining and joy is rejuvenating. It short-circuits the negative impact of the pain we experience when we’re striving to find a place of peace and comfort.

Don’t think of joy as something cute. It’s a powerful healing emotion.

Facing a painful experience?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Hoping to experience joy through art?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com