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

A Light Goes Out…A Torch is Lit

One of the key stories on my Internet homepage was about a young man named Stephen Sutton. Sutton died yesterday at the age of 19 after being diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 15. He personified determination, compassion, and strength. His mission was to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust (teenagecancertrust.org), an organization in London serving teenagers diagnosed with cancer. Their goal is to treat individuals as young people first and cancer patients second.

Why does this young man make headlines? There are lots of young people who are diagnosed with cancer around the world on a daily basis. This man stands out because of his authenticity, his dedication, and his lack of ego. He chose to use his diagnosis to change not only his life, but also the lives of teens throughout London. As Robin Roberts’ mother use to say, “Make your mess your message!”

Sutton wanted to raise approximately $16,000 (10,000 pounds) and as of the latest tally, the organization with his direction, has raised over 5.5 million dollars. His story and his cause caught the eye of some prominent English entertainers all helping to spread Sutton’s message. We are attracted to stories! When a story directs our attention to how we can make the world a little better, it becomes louder and larger.

Stephen Sutton shared his worldview, “I don’t see the point in measuring life in terms of time anymore, I’d rather measure life in terms of making a difference.” We’re amazed when we hear these words from people like Bill and Melinda Gates as they fight the malaria epidemic, or Oprah creating the Leadership Academy in South Africa hoping that by educating girls you change the direction of an entire continent. Hearing these words come from a teenager should renew our faith in humanity. It should provide each of us who bear witness to Sutton’s story with a belief that what’s small can become large, and what may feel like a pet project can be adopted worldwide as a beacon of hope.

When you see someone use his/her life for the greater good, I urge you to use it as a lesson. Even though Stephen Sutton’s light has gone out, his energy, vision, and tenacious nature lights a torch that will burn bright in years to come. I encourage you, even if you don’t have a chronic or life-threatening illness, to stop thinking of life in terms of time and see how you can make a difference.

My hope is that every day that I sit down to write this post, I can make a difference by providing education, support, and inspiration for those facing a health challenge. I’ve been entrusted with the stories of those facing a health challenge for over twenty-five years. These heartfelt stories fuel my passion and determination to provide a safe environment for each of you facing a health challenge to have someone, a community who will listen and be able to hold the pain.

Looking for community when facing a health challenge? Visit www.survivingstrong.com.

Interested in Art and Healing? Visit www.timetolivecreatively.com

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

Justin Timberlake’s Master Class…”Do the Work”

It’s funny, I never consider the question, “How did I get where I am?” Well to be completely honest, I have in the past, but not in recent times. I used to ponder this question while I spent seven years in Jungian therapy with an amazing therapist. I didn’t look at it as exploring the journey, but feeling a bit less “crazy” than I was feeling.

As I read more and more biographies, memoirs, or pathographies, this question of “how did I get here?” seems to get raised over and over. We’re drawn, even mesmerized by the answers that famous or notable people give to this question. It’s as if they’ve unlocked the mysteries of the Universe and we’re destined to see if their solutions are universal or specific to their own lives. There was a point in time when these books were my saving grace, but one day I realized that we’ve all got our own journey to follow, each worth its own book.

So why is this question rearing its head today? What’s the catalyst for throwing me into the jaws of self-reflection? Am I at a crossroads that is waiting for a solution? What would happen if I ignored this question…that’s simple; it would keep coming up waiting for me to seek some level of resolution.

Last night I watched an episode of Oprah’s ¨Master class with Justin Timberlake”. I enjoy Timberlake’s music, his comedic talent and his acting abilities. I was taken by how eloquently he expressed his views and sharing of his life’s journey. He was thoughtful without being pompous. He was honest, humble, and genuine.

One of the stories he told was about an interview he was doing when the reporter said, “I’m supposed to hate you. You make everything look so easy”. Timberlake was very clear that what the world sees is easy; what it takes for him to get to that point requires great sacrifice. Those sacrifices include bleeding fingers from practicing the guitar for hours on end. He talks about his legs cramping from rehearing dance moves, and the sheer exhaustion from all the rehearsal. It’s all that blood, sweat, and tears that allows him to make everything he does look easy.

His message was clear; “you’ve got to do the work”. We may think he’s talking about our vocation, but he really means putting in the time to achieve your goal. It’s about the commitment to a process, your process, that will reap great rewards. It’s possible to “do the work” in multiple areas of your life.

Last week I talked about Dan Harris’ book 10% Happier: How I tamed the voice in my head, reduced stress without losing my edge, and found self-help that actually works- A true story.  In the end Harris turned to meditation, and that’s the work he needs to do to achieve his personal and professional goals. His commitment is palpable as you read his story. You can understand how important “doing the work” is to keeping Harris sharp, professionally, and more present in all his relationships.

Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way gives anyone with the desire to live creatively an opportunity to unlock their own potential. The book walks you through a 12-week journey. Each morning Cameron suggests that you write. “Morning Pages” is the writing exercise you do each morning as a way to start the day and to make sure you start the day fresh, not holding on to yesterday’s ball and chain. Cameron suggests that you write three pages each day. She also encourages you to commit to an artist’s date once a week. It only works if you “do the work”.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness “the work” is a bit different. I’m not only talking about treatment; that is work, but I’m thinking about those things that bring happiness to your life. I’m thinking that part of “the work” is how do you resolve the spiritual questions that lead you to acceptance without a struggle. When facing a health challenge, “the work” may be about self-empowerment. Finding your voice in the world and with your medical providers.

The amazing thing about “doing the work” is that it requires action and any action will result in some type of outcome. You get to make an assessment on the success of the outcome and you can either continue or choose to make changes. Perhaps it’s time to change doctors because you’ve lost confidence in their effectiveness. You may look to alternative treatments or clinical trials to expand the range of possibilities on your journey to health and healing. It doesn’t matter what action ensues as long as you take action.

Obviously these words of wisdom have worked great for Justin Timberlake. They aren’t a universal solution, but a hint at what’s possible. If you use his life as an example you can personalize “the work” to any aspect of your life!

What do you think is possible if you “do the work”?

Surviving Strong provides education, support, and inspiration when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness. Visit www.survivingstrong.com

Interested in exploring Art and Healing? Visit www.timetolivecreatively.com

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

Charles Schwab Wants You to “Own Your Future”

I’m always mindful of my surroundings leaving me open to inspiration. I was passing a construction site not far from my home. Charles Schwab is building a brand new campus for it’s local operations. There are two large buildings and a third building that reminds me of a visitor center. The front of the building is enclosed in glass allowing passersby to see the lobby of the building. On the wall, displayed prominently are the words, “Own Your Future”.

“Own Your Future”, obviously to a financial services company that means something very specific. They are hoping to entice, motivate, and assist you in creating a financial future where you are in charge, not at the mercy of things like social security or simple savings. However, for those facing adversity, such as the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness, it would mean something very different.

Once you enter the challenge vortex it may feel like you’ve lost your power and your voice. Your future is dictated to you through the powers that be; the professionals. It’s not our fault! We’ve been conditioned to be good sheep; unfortunately sometimes we’re led to slaughter (figuratively of course).

What would it mean for you to “Own Your Future”? It may require some education. I’ve spent the past twenty years reading pathographies, memoirs and biographies that share a person’s experience with an illness; they can shorten the learning curve when facing a health challenge.

Support Groups are another great way to understand the health challenge (or any challenge) terrain.   It’s easy to believe that we’re on an island alone, but support groups provide socialization, support, and encouragement. They give you the tools to feel empowered as you navigate this new arena in your life.

It’s also important to find inspiration. Listening to speeches like Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture (which has been turned into a book) can be invigorating to the soul. It can be a catalyst for you to explore new ways of living your life. It can serve as a blueprint for your spirit to embrace whatever the future holds and how you can reframe any situation to one of ownership instead of victimhood.

Owning your future requires energy and perseverance. Owning your future will alleviate some of the stress associated with overcoming adversity. When you feel in control, part of the process, and informed in the decision making process, the result is a sense of peace. The angst of not knowing subsides and your gain clarity. This clarity is the essence of “Owning Your Future”.

Looking for education, support, and inspiration when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness? Visit www.survivingstrong.com

Interested in Art and Healing? Visit www.timetolivecreatively.com