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.

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

Do You Shy Away From the Hard Questions?

When we’re facing a chronic or life-threatening illness there are lots of questions. We want to know how, why, and what’s next. We ask about treatment options, prognosis, side effects from medications, and possibly alternative therapies. The questions we ask are very concrete. These questions address what we think are the tangible aspects of disease and healing.

I’ve been pondering these “tangible” questions and I’m starting to think they are the easy questions. Why you may ask. Well, the truth is they are the predictable questions. They are the questions that everyone asks and is expected to ask. We’ve been conditioned as patients to ask these predictable questions. There not bad questions, actually they are crucial questions; but once they are answered what questions are left to ask.

The truth is, “The quality of the answers is dependent on the quality of the questions.” So what are those questions? They are the soul driven questions. They are the questions that ask what are you going to do with this journey? Are you ready, willing, and able to go on this spiritually driven healing pilgrimage? We could go so far as to ask, “What’s the meaning of life?” (Without the cliché aspect).

If you read my recent post at, you’ll explore the idea of releasing your phenomenal nature, and that’s a big question. This type of question gets us to begin explore the depths of our past and present experiences. It drives us to focus on potential, a forward thinking catalyst. It’s that forward thinking catalyst that can lead to hope, or encourage the development of our faith.

We can debate forever the “why me” or “why not me” continuum. However, that can slide you into a life of an infinite loop, and that’s exhausting. The “why” question, in most cases, can never be answered definitively. On the other hand, the questions that focus on our internal connection to possibility can allow us to develop those quality questions with the knowing we’ll be ready with those quality answers.

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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, Spirituality and Health

Space Planning

I watch a lot of HGTV and I’m always amazed at the result the designers achieve.  I have some friends currently building homes and it’s not uncommon to discuss space planning because they are all artists and are designing their ideal studios.  We consider space planning when it comes to our physical homes, our dwellings, but don’t consider space planning in any other realm of our lives.

What if we worked on space planning in our minds?  How would our lives change if we thought about how we use the space in our minds?  What would it take for you to consider space planning for your emotional and spiritual life?

Let’s face it being diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness is a big thing; it takes up a lot of space.  The most obvious place it takes space is in your body.  You and your medical teamwork together striving to reduce the amount of physical space your illness takes in your body.  Along with various treatments and medication, good food and rest are vitally important to reducing the amount of space your illness takes up in your body.

The other aspect to this is the amount of space a diagnosis of an illness takes up in your mind.  It is like “The Blob”, expanding into all the nooks and crannies of your mind zapping your energy that you need for health and healing.  When you ruminate about your illness the amount of space it takes up is enormous.  What can you do to contain the expansion of negative energy?

Support groups are a great way to contain the negative emotional aspects of a health challenge.  It allows you to dump the negative energy and get support when you need it most.  The group atmosphere is affirming and lets you know that you’re not the only person in the world having these experiences.  The problem is that not everyone lives in a geographic location where there is a support group for your particular diagnosis.  The Internet has given us the opportunity to connect with people around the world at any time day or night, creating relationships and partnerships for mutual support.

When it comes to your spiritual life, expansion is the name of the game.  Finding a spiritual director or coach to help you create a space plan in your soul can be a game changer.  Having someone who travels with you on this pilgrimage can provide you with soul reinforcement allowing you to continue this arduous journey.  This partnership is about comfort as well as expanding the positive aspects of belief in an energy force greater than you.

Space planning is not just for your physical environment, but your inner habitat as well.  It can provide you with comfort when you feel as if your diagnosis is taking over your entire life and you feel as if no one understands.  Containment of the emotional and spiritual intrusions can promote health and lead you to getting better or getting well!

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

Soul Transparency

This is probably one of the most personal posts I’ve written, but the experience was so striking I wanted to share it with you.  I was at the park last week and going about my business.  Usually I go to the park to read or do some writing, but I was sitting in my car just thinking about the day when unbeknownst to me, I was being observed.

I was sitting quietly in my car when a woman who was getting in the car next to me approached my window.  She asked if I wanted her to pray for me; figuring I could use all the help I could muster I said YES.  Her prayer was sweet and meaningful, although obviously Christian (only mention it because I’m Jewish).  She finished her prayer, offered me some literature and then went on her way.

The kind woman pulled out of her parking spot to leave and immediately pulled back in next to me.  She got back out of her car and asked me if I wanted her to wait while I reviewed the literature in case had any questions that she could answer for me.  I politely declined, but didn’t feel like she believed me totally.  She left the parking lot and I was dazed and confused.

I began thinking about how transparent I might be if she were able to pick up a vibe calling out for help.  I didn’t feel particularly needy or distressed that day, but I’m suspecting I had an aura that said something different than my personal experience.  It made me begin wondering about how transparent I am, and how much of my soul cries out even without me being aware.

When we’re challenged in life how much does our soul reveal about us?  What does the soul do to catch the attention of others bringing people into our lives who may be able to ease our pain.  When diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness those times may be come and go, but are we really aware when challenges arise on our health pilgrimage?  Do we acknowledge the challenges and allow them to serve as teachers?  This experience happened over a week ago and I’ve been contemplating it every day since it happened.  I keep wondering why this woman was brought into my life and what was she leading me to see that I couldn’t or still can’t.

Having a health challenge may serve to mask our connection to our soul, but when people intervene, such as this woman, does it reconnect us more authentically?  I’ll continue thinking about this experience and continue searching for the meaning of this meeting.  I’m thankful that there are people in the world intuitive enough and courageous enough to intervene.  As I wrote in that post the other day, “I may not know her, but I’ll never forget her”!

Posted in living with chronic illness, Living with Illness, Spirituality and Health, Storytelling

Hildegard of Bingen in God’s Hotel

Prior to moving to Colorado I lived in the Bay Area for fourteen years.  I’ve been involved with health and healing since I started graduate school and that’s where my heart still resides.  I moved to the Bay Area from the east coast in 1986 at what would become the AIDS crisis at a time when medications weren’t very effective and people were dying all the time.

I’d met a woman who was a doctor at Laguna Honda Hospital.  It was a very old building and was considered an almshouse, a place for those who were poor and very sick.  For many, it became San Francisco’s AIDS hospital/hospice with its looming old structure tucked away, almost like a haunted mansion.  I always wondered about Laguna Honda, but never delved into its mysteries.

Then I ran across Victoria Sweet’s book, God’s Hotel.  She’s a doctor at Laguna Honda Hospital and has been for more than twenty years.  I could go on and on about the hospital, but it’s Dr. Sweet’s attraction to Hildegard of Bingen that caught my attention.

Hildegard of Bingen was a nun, mystic, medical provider who lived in the 12th century.  Dr. Sweet, after years of medical school and training went and received her PhD in history and social medicine focusing on the work of Hildegard of Bingen.  What Dr. Sweet shares is Bingen’s philosophy about the prescription of time when it comes to treating a patient.  She also comments on how Bingen’s triumvirate of care, Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet, and Dr. Merry were methods of treatment not just comic relief as we might believe today.

Dr. Sweet’s devotion to invoking the essence of time into her treatment plans, as much as she was allowed in modern medicine is a tribute to her knowledge of Hildegard of Bingen’s methodologies, and her believe in the human body and the human spirit in healing.

One of the beautiful aspects of “God’s Hotel” is how Dr. Sweet describes her personal pilgrimage.  In addition to walking the Santiago de Compostela, she discusses her personal pilgrimages experiences by her interactions with staff and patients at Laguna Honda.

So what do you think about Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet, and Dr. Merry?  In case you’re wondering it’s about diet, rest, and joy.  The book is a great read not only for the history of Laguna Honda Hospital, but for the incredible devotion Victoria Sweet takes us on both personally and professionally.  She’s the type of doctor we all wish we had.

Posted in after the diagnosis, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness, Spirituality and Health

Leave it All on the Stage!

They say when you audition for any type of performance art that you need to leave everything you’ve got on the stage.  It’s crucial that you not hold back because the selection/judging committee is seeing lots of people all vying for the same position.  When you hold back the only person you’re sabotaging is you!  Let’s face it, what have you got to lose, absolutely nothing.

I was looking at Facebook and found the following posted by one of my friends, “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘Holy S**t…What a ride!”  I felt a sense of jubilation when I read this because it follows the idea that you should “Die Broke”, at least physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Allow your life to be spent wisely, but completely.

Perhaps this philosophy isn’t new, but we don’t talk about it much.  In all my years of working with those facing a life-threatening illness many hold back.  They talk about the big plans, but often that’s as far as the planning goes, but what if that changed?  What would happen if you had a personal activity director for your life?  What would you be doing if you had full-fledged encouragement to live everyday to its fullest?  What’s the one thing you would be doing today if you had to spend (figuratively) everything you had by the time you go to sleep this evening?

Life is finite!  The day is finite!  The possibilities are limitless!  Leave it all on the stage of life and let your life expand to its full potential.

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


When I began thinking about the idea of being shipwrecked I thought about Tom Hanks movie, Cast Away.  All I kept thinking about were the conversations with “Wilson” the ball.  That’s what isolation leads on to do, create ways of staying sane.  If he didn’t have “Wilson” why would he be insane (or potentially insane)?  Because he’d be along and isolation makes us do crazy things.

We’re social creatures and it doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert or an extrovert, we have a need and are driven to be in contact with others.  So how does this apply to your life since your diagnosis with a chronic or other life-altering illness?  You may feel that in your circles there is no one who understands you.  There is no one in your world who knows the heartache and fear that accompanies the diagnosis of a health challenge.  You may even be questioning how can the medical community understand your journey unless they themselves have traveled the same road.

I understand your concerns and as a provider and someone who has been living with an aut0-immune disease most of his life, I can tell you it gets better.  How did it get better?  I found people who spoke my language.  I began talking to other people who had some type of illness.  For me, it didn’t have to be the same diagnosis, but someone who understands the stress and strain of a complete lifestyle change that includes doctors, medications, lab tests, and other changes to life’s routine.

When I went to graduate school and then got my psychotherapy license I focused on nonprofits that served people with health challenges.  We found that treating the body, mind and spirit helped alleviate the isolation or that feeling of being shipwrecked.  It put people in community, and that’s vitally important to health and healing.  We weren’t meant to travel this road alone.  Yes, it’s true, you have to take responsibility for your life that includes following a treatment regimen, getting enough rest, exercise, and proper nutrition.  It also includes expressing your feelings about these changes and that’s why for many support groups are vitally important.  In addition, spiritual support will take your journey inward so you can explore the questions that arise as a result of your health challenge.

Don’t end up talking to a ball named Wilson.  Find ways to connect so you don’t feel shipwrecked.  Get off the island of isolation and find a community that will support you, understand you, and make you feel a part of something larger in this crazy world.