Posted in coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, newly diagnosed illness, overcoming adversity

Living Life Like a Sponge

We go through life having one experience after another. They mount and the experiences build upon one another giving us a plethora of resources. Our brains are magnificent organs and they serve as the command center of our world. However, there are times in our lives, especially during times of stress that we can’t retrieve the information we need. The truth is that stress impacts our absorption process.

When we face adversity our first inclination is to gather information. We seek out every resource possible hoping to find answers to our questions. Our search reaches far as we try to alleviate the anxiety that often accompanies a challenge of any type. Facing a chronic or life-threatening illness certainly qualifies as one of life’s great stressors.

There is an enormous amount of information about illnesses and treatments. Technology has made it possible to access research studies, anecdotal evidence, and even support groups without leaving your home. Every source you access adds to the amount of information you’re absorbing and need to process. The problem is that we’re really good at absorbing information, but not so good at sifting through the information.

It’s clear we live our lives like a sponge, but when are we taught to wring out the sponge? We can only benefit from the information we collect if we’re able to discern what’s critical for health and healing, instead of having too much clutter and missing what can benefit you the most. Wringing out our sponge gives us the opportunity to collect new information and experiences. If we’re saturated then we often experience fatigue, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Health and healing is an evolving process. It requires that we continually expand opportunities for new experiences and information. Giving yourself the gift of possibility honors your health and healing journey. It provides you with a sense of hope because seeking answers to questions keeps you engaged in your healing pilgrimage.

What can you wring out making room for new information and experiences? If you’re feeling overwhelmed what can you wring out of your soul, the living sponge, to make room for what’s pertinent and inspiring?

Looking for education, support, and inspiration when facing a chronic or life-threatening experience? Visit

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

After You Fall To Your Knees….How Do You Get Up?

The month of April is filled with the anniversaries of national tragic events. We recently honored the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting. Tomorrow is the nineteenth anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing of the Federal Building. This coming Sunday is the fifteenth anniversary of the Columbine shooting. These three events rocked the feeling of safety and security in our country.

Traumatic events don’t only have to be about shootings, bombings, and abuse, but can be the result of a diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness. The moment of diagnosis rocks the world of each person who hears the doctor say, “I’m sorry to tell you…” There is no nation to share in the mourning process.

So where am I headed with this? Last night I was watching the news and the mother of one of the students killed at Columbine was asked by the reporter “What do you want people to think about on the anniversary of the tragedy?” The mother of the murdered student responded, “After you fall to your knees, how do you get up?” It’s a question that is paramount to the beginning of the journey to health and healing.

Yesterday there was an interview on Good Morning America. Amy Robach who was diagnosed with cancer while doing a story about breast cancer screening interviewed Samantha Harris, known from hosting Dancing with the Stars, recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

The two women were talking about receiving their diagnosis alone, without any family members or friends by their side. Robach asked Harris, “How did you hold it together?” Harris shared that she held it together until the doctor left the room and broke down in tears.

We can fall to our knees both figuratively and literally. In many cases, it happens simultaneously. Perhaps the shock of the news impacting the physical, emotional, and emotional self is what brings us to our knees. We can also be brought to our knees when we pray.

One of the things I’ve learned about others and myself is that our souls are resilient. We have the capacity to absorb the shock and transform that energy into motivation, perseverance, and tenacity. It’s the transformation of that negative energy into a healing energy that serves as a catalyst and a springboard for the health and healing pilgrimage.

After falling to your knees, how have you gotten up? Share your story in the comments section below. As a community your story can blaze a trail for others who may still be on their knees.

For more information on health and healing go to

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

Who Has Inspired You In Your Life?

I was watching Good Morning America and one of the segments focused on Robin Roberts’ new book, “Everybody’s Got Something.” Each of the anchors did a short segment about who and why a specific person inspires them. It was a good reminder of two things; we all have things we go through and need help with, and, there are people who have come before us who have blazed a trail for us to follow.

Roberts shared an important quote from her coach.   The coach said, “Attitude more that aptitude gives us altitude.” This quote was like cupid shooting an arrow through my heart; it was that profound. There are so many levels to meaning behind the coach’s wisdom and to peel back the layers is inspiring.

Our attitude gives us the energy we need to persevere through our trials and tribulations. I don’t mean for this to be a lecture on positive thinking, but using our attitude as a filter can impact our actions. It can serve as an anchor for our decision making process and hopefully that impacts our aptitude for making decision. The more practice we get the better we get at sifting out the unnecessary and focusing on what’s helpful!

So where does the altitude come into the picture? I think the coach was referring to the ways that we open ourselves to possibility. The notion that we have untapped potential waiting to be unleashed and that attitude is the catalyst for that release. Is it simple to achieve? There are probably some instances where it is easier than others, but that just means that possibility exists and gives us the inspiration to continue on our personal pilgrimage.

I know I usually focus on living with chronic and life-threatening illness, but we have to remember just like the title of Roberts’ book, Everybody Has Something. We all have our struggles, some larger than others, but knowing that we’re all on a pilgrimage to health, healing, and peace is reassuring.

Who has inspired you continuing your journey? Share it with us in the comments section below.   For more information on living with chronic and life-threatening illness visit,

Posted in coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Living with Illness, newly diagnosed illness, overcoming adversity

This is My Life…Now

Being diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness is all about transition.  It entails shattered assumptions about what you believed your life was supposed to be moving forward.  It entails a shift in thinking, not to a bad place, but to a new place.  Making the shift may take some time, but anything worth having is worth putting in a little elbow grease and dealing with the learning curve.

I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease as a kid so I’ve always known that there was something different about me physically than others.  However, what I wasn’t prepared for was a secondary diagnosis about seven years later.  I was part of a campus organization that raised money for kids charities.  One of the events we held was a 24 hour dance marathon.  I was participating in the dance marathon and noticed that as the marathon progressed my feet were in more and more pain.  It wasn’t the type of pain that comes with your shoes being too tight, or just from being on them a long time.  It was a sharp and focused pain.  I finished the marathon and took to bed for a couple of days thinking it would resolve itself; it did not resolve itself.

This began my consultation with doctors and each doctor would give me a different explanation.  I remember the day that rheumatologist said that I was one of 3% of psoriasis patients that get something called “psoriatic arthritis”.  I went on a course of anti-inflamatory medication and it helped, but I still woke up every morning with pain.  In addition to the pain, I was also taking a new set of medications and had to watch for the side-effects that accompanied the new medications.  It was a shift for me because I now had more than one health challenge to keep tabs on and they were impacted by each other.

There was a day of surrender when I said to myself that “This is my life…now”.  I would always be at risk of being incapacitated by pain and the possibility of being unable to walk. I would always have a new specialist in my life.  I would always be walking the tightrope balancing the triggers of both diagnoses.  If I took it as a bad thing I’d be giving myself the license to be miserable forever.  Understanding that “This is my life…now” was freeing.  It allowed me to explore new treatments both traditional and complementary.  Once I embraced the statement, “This is my life…now” I felt more in control of my life and my illness.

How will you make this statement part of your life?  What steps do you need to take to embrace this paradigm shift?

Posted in newly diagnosed illness

Pay Attention to Demographics

On Tuesday the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) had an article about Imerman Angels ( , a Chicago based organization that pairs a mentor with a newly diagnosed person with cancer.  The organization matches the mentor and the newly diagnosed patient based on as many parameters as possible, but most importantly age and type of cancer.  The implementation of a mentor program is critical when you consider the way healthcare has changed.  Yes, technology and research have increased the treatment options and prognosis for patients so now it’s time to pay attention to the person with the diagnosis; their emotional, spiritual and even their practical questions about living with the disease.

The startling part of the article was about survival rates, “…cancer survival among patients ages 25 to 35 hasn’t improved since 1975, according to the National Cancer Institute.  Some cancers are less responsive to treatment in young adults than in other age groups.  But those patients may be less likely to seek immediate help for symptoms, resulting in a delayed diagnosis, and they often lack insurance.”  This is both sad and disturbing.  I understand it developmentally; young people don’t believe they’re going to die so a symptom is something stupid that will go away.  Unfortunately the other part of the equation, lack of health insurance is an obstacle that has to be addressed.  If survival rates haven’t improved for this age group in 34 years then we’ve got a lot to do to change how things are being done.

No matter your diagnosis, finding someone who has blazed the trail is enormously helpful.  Having a go-to person who can let you know about the bumps in the road before they happen is a gift of tremendous proportion.  Most importantly, having someone who is living proof of what life can be like after your diagnosis provides hope, reduces isolation, and gives you the strength to make the tough choices that come with any diagnosis.  Look for a mentor by contacting the nonprofit organization either on the local or national level that represents those with your diagnosis.