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

Dead Sea, Black Sea, Red Sea…Pink Sea?

You may be wondering is there really a pink sea; Google it and see what comes up. The truth is there is no Pink Sea, but today is October 1st and you may be experiencing a Sea of Pink. Today begins Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The use of the color pink has brought enormous attention to the Breast Cancer community. It has become defining, creating a community of those diagnosed with breast cancer, those living beyond breast cancer, and their families.

I was in Houston in April at the annual conference of the Arts and Health Alliance. While I was in town walking the main road an army of pink passed me. They were in the midst of their annual Avon Walk for the Cure. Women, men, and children all wearing pink to show their support for the Breast Cancer community.

The color pink linked to the breast cancer community has created a link and a way for community members to show their connection to the community. It becomes more prominent this time of year when buildings change out their white bulbs for pink bulbs shining a pink glow against their buildings in support. Pink ribbons are in full bloom like a field of wild lavender. It’s truly amazing that an illness has gone beyond the diagnosis and has created a community of hope, inspiration, and education.

The breast cancer community has created a culture and that’s not an easy thing to do. They have brought together the medical community, the corporate community, and individuals for a common cause. We’ll see a month filled with news stories about mammograms, treatment updates, and news of new medications such as Perjeta (a drug given FDA approval this past week).

You may not be a fan of the pink culture. Barbara Ehrenreich, noted author, is anti-pink. On an NPR interview she was clear that she didn’t want to be buried with a pink Teddy Bear. She doesn’t want to be defined for having an illness. She may not want to be defined by the pink culture, but it has served many raising money and pressure to find a cure and new treatments.

It doesn’t matter if you support the pink culture. It does matter that you support those facing Breast Cancer and all other illnesses. Perhaps we can find ways for other illnesses to find a culture that will help make their need more notable!

Are you or a loved one facing Breast Cancer?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to heal through art?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Follow me on Twitter: @GregKatz2

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

Stuck Like Glue…Holding on Too Tight to One Piece of Information

Colorado Public Radio interviewed a woman who recently wrote a book about her experience with the medical community. What happened? She was wrongly diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I’m sure you’re going how does that happen, but unfortunately doctors aren’t perfect. We should always remember they say that doctors “practice medicine”; it’s not a perfect science. Unfortunately the troubles are on both the doctor’s and the patient’s sides of the fence so we have to develop strategies to overcome these upsetting outcomes.

The new director of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Dr. Matthew Wynia, MD, MPH, talked about in the age of Google many patients are coming for medical care with their own diagnoses. On the flip side, Jerome Groopman, author of “Second Opinions”, and “How Doctors Think” shares that doctors have been trained to make a diagnosis in the first twenty second of their interaction with the patient.

Information is great, but too much information can be harmful. Wynia talked about a phenomenon called Anchoring Bias. Anchoring bias is when we lock our thoughts and decision around a particular fact or group of facts to the point that we become unable to hear any other opinions or possibilities.

Personally I have been guilty of self-diagnosis. I’ve taken all my symptoms, entered them in the computer and waited for the diagnosis. I know that it’s not definitive because I may be experiencing certain symptoms, but without further testing or exams I can only account for those I can see or feel. However, I can see where it would be comforting to walk in thinking you know what’s ailing you because the unknown is quite scary.

On the doctor’s end we also need to address anchoring bias. Doctors are trained to believe that A+B=C. Unfortunately, there are too many variables in the human body. Groopman recommends that after receiving a diagnosis asking the doctor, “If it weren’t X, what else might it be? What other organs are nearby that may influence your decision?” The key is dislodging the provider’s stronghold on the diagnosis they believe is 100% certain.

Unfortunately diagnostics are sometimes fluid. It’s important to remember that healthcare is a team effort. We, the patient, have to be forthright with our providers and the providers have to be willing to listen to the patient’s entire story. Detectives can’t solve cases without all the information and the same is true for medical diagnoses.

The one thing I encourage you to anchor to is the idea of optimal health. I had some major pulmonary issues earlier in the year. It would have been easy for the doctor, knowing I have an asthma diagnosis, to simply go with the pulmonary diagnosis. Instead, he ran a plethora of cardiac tests to rule out the possibility that cardiac issues didn’t spark my pulmonary issues. It was interesting because on my annual visit with my dermatologist I told him about the numerous cardiac tests I had and he was glad that my primary care physician expanded his sights beyond my obvious breathing issues, reinforcing my confidence in my doctor.

Be aware that we’re all subject to anchor bias, and not just in medical care. You’d be surprised how we can all be like a dog with a bone when it decreases our anxiety. Health and healing requires that we not look at healthcare as a one-way street. There are often many avenues to be explored and getting to the heart of the matter increases the accuracy of diagnoses!

Diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to explore possibilities of health and healing through art?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Follow me on Twitter: @GregKatz2

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

Is It Chic to be Sick?

Illness is a difficult experience and is usually something that is dealt with in the privacy of one’s home. I guess that times are changing because there seems to be a new trend on television; shows revolving around illness. I guess the networks and cable have had a topic epiphany; it’s chic to be sick.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m watching the two shows that have come to my attention. While watching the shows I’m riding on the coattails of the writers looking at the themes they are bringing to consciousness giving the public an insiders view of illness.

This summer saw ABC Family launched Chasing Life, the story of a twenty-four year old just starting out in her career as a reporter who is diagnosed with leukemia. Of course there are a few side stories that make it a drama, but it does touch on the process of being diagnosed, going through tests, the social ramifications of the diagnosis, and at the end of the season the start of treatment.

The show punctuates the common themes of denial after a diagnosis, how illness interrupts life’s plans, and the importance of having a support group/team to help you through the process of health and healing. I commend ABC Family for taking on this precarious topic. It’s not a mainstream storyline, but the cable network is exploring real life scenarios giving us a glimpse of the world of illness.

The other show that began this past week is the Red Band Society. Fox is taking on the topic of illness amongst kids who are in a long-term inpatient Children’s Hospital. The show has only aired one episode so it’s difficult to know how the storylines will progress. We’re only getting the back stories of the patients and it may take some time to see how the writers attack the multiple issues related to serious illness.

I’m glad that shows are beginning to emerge around the theme of illness. Illness is something that will touch all of our lives. My hope is that these shows will give us a platform to discuss these topics that are usually taboo. I hope these shows will give those facing a chronic or life-threatening illness to seek support from groups, a therapist, a coach, or spiritual director.

Making illness the central theme of a show takes guts. I hope the shows make it because we need this type of cultural exposure to the issues surrounding illness and healing!

Facing a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Searching for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to explore health and healing 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, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness, overcoming adversity

Being A Change Agent

Are we all looking for change? Change seems to be a buzzword, but I’m not sure what it’s a buzzword for. Change leads us to think about improvement, correction of going off course, or ways to become fabulous. We all know people in our history who have changed the world; Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Marie Curie come to mind. Are you up for that type of responsibility?

I was watching the new Fox show Red Band Society (a must watch) and the writers captured the true nature of change in a single line, “You don’t have to change the world, you just have to change your world.” Can you think of a simpler thought? It scales the amount of effort needed and increases the likelihood that you’ll achieve greater results.

When facing any type of life interruption we’re called to make changes. It would be nice to keep the status quo, but often that was a factor that led to the interruption.   Change isn’t bad and if done consciously and with commitment we can move further along on our health and healing journey.

I know there have been many times in my life when I wanted or needed to feel responsible for changing the world. I felt weighed down and overwhelmed. I sabotaged myself because the goal was so grandiose and unrealistic that sabotage seemed to rescue me from me. I feel fortunate to have adopted the idea from the Red Band Society prior to the line being spoken on last night’s show. Having responsibility for me allows me to make noticeable changes and in turn that overflows to the people, organizations, and community around me.

Going back to school was one of the most important ways that I changed my own life. I met people, encountered ideas, and engaged in activities that enriched and expanded my consciousness. I submerged myself in a passion of studying art and healing and that brings joy to my life. It was a long journey but the result was a degree and connections to others who are making personal changes and impacting their own communities.

How will you change your world? What is one thing you can do today to begin the change process? Let us know and let’s start a conversation about how we can all change our own world!

Looking to make changes in your life and need education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to explore change 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, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness, overcoming adversity

Why Learning is so Important to Healing

I facilitate a dissertation support group call for those embarking on this exciting journey of academic exploration. I love the group experience because I get as much as I receive, and it keeps me in the loop with emerging thought leaders. I love hearing the topics the students are taking on for their monumental projects, and as each topic is revealed I become entranced by the concept of possibility.

Learning to me is all about possibility. It’s the one aspect of our lives that requires dedication and attention. Learning is a conscious process that serves not only our brains, but influences our lives in so many ways. The experience of learning provides solutions for the challenges that stand in our way. They are the clues we seek out when curiosity keeps tickling our brain. More importantly, learning helps us heal. It allows us to shake bad habits, establish new habits, and expands our thinking and our worldly experiences.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” The idea of “live as if you were to die tomorrow” has been prominent in our age of spiritual awakening. Tim McGraw’s song Live Like You Were Dying epitomized that notion. There have been books about “living in the now” and a host of movies emphasizing the same point. But what about “learning like we are going to live forever”?

Learning is what keeps us engaged. Researchers show that one of the ways to ward off Alzheimer’s disease is to keep learning new things. Learning a new language, learning to knit, learning to play an instrument creates new neural pathways. It allows us think different. It expands our repertoire of experience providing us with new stories to tell.

The “practice” of learning refreshes our soul. It challenges us and provides us with new opportunities for mastery.   Learning is the rich soil of possibility. It allows us to take on the role of student. A place where we are nurtured encouraged, and anything is possible. It calls us to participate fully, expend some energy, and make space for something new.

We can’t fix or fight every challenge presented to us, but we can learn how to cope. We can learn new ways of approaching these challenges lessening the burdens. We must learn to enrich the lives we’ve been given. Making the most we’ve been given is part of the rent we pay for living on this planet. Keep learning and tell me what you find!

Diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to learn something new?  Expand your healing horizons through art?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

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

Time to Crash The Party

Everyone loves a party because they’re fun! Parties give us a chance to spend time with friends, eat good food, and most of all laugh. Parties are often about celebrations. Celebrations are the markers for important moments in life, birthdays, graduations, and weddings. When you’re at a party you’re present. You’re living in the moment and that heightens the experience.

If life were a party what would it look like? Many of us sit around waiting for life to offer us an invitation to participate, but what if that invitation doesn’t come? First of all don’t sit at the proverbial mailbox waiting for the invitation to come; crash the party.

I think back to an episode of Friends that punctuates this point.   The character Monica (played by Courtney Cox) was wound very tight. She had some real OCD type qualities making her feel a bit boxed in with limited amounts of possibility and fun. Then she gets her credit card statement and she realizes that someone had stolen her credit card. The amazing thing is that the criminal was using the card to live life to its fullest. The criminal was taking dance classes, going on horseback rides, and a host of other life engaging activities. Monica says, “she’s living the life I want to live.”

What would it look like if you crashed the party we call life? Are there things you want to do but something is holding you back? It’s sad because many of us wait until we face a challenge such an illness to awaken our body, mind, and spirit to the possibilities life has to offer. Do you want to sit back and wait for something bad to happen to activate your inner party crasher? Isn’t it better to engage in a life that fills your soul? I’m not only talking about having fun, but working in a job that feeds you instead of robbing your body, mind, and spirit of precious nutrients.

This isn’t about turning your life upside down, but engaging in the precious life you’ve been given. Party crashing life means that you take an active role instead of simply floating along and allowing life to determine the path you’ll take. Party crashing life puts you in the driver’s seat, so party on!

Diagnosed with an illness and want to learn to be a party crasher?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to expand your party crashing by engaging in art to aid healing?  Visit http://www.timetolifecreatively.com