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Posts Tagged ‘breast cancer’

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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The question “who is being tested?” has been hanging over my head for weeks. I read Robin Roberts book Everybody’s Got Something and she makes reference to her more recent diagnosis of MDS (myelodyspastic syndrome), like her breast cancer diagnosis as a test. Perhaps she was referring to a test of her spirit, her faith, or her body, but still she framed it as a test.

Roberts book is not the first book, talk, or movie that makes reference to a life challenge as a test. We discuss adversity in the context of a test as if it were something we’ve been studying for years and we’re now ready for the test. How is it possible that you got selected for this test? How will you know if you pass the test? Some believe if they are healed, then they passed the test. This doesn’t sit well with me because that implies paying penance, or needing to prove something to the Universe.

Don’t you think it’s possible that you’re not the one being tested? Couldn’t you just be a vehicle for who/what is really being tested? How would you feel if you knew you were a catalyst for great change because you were diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness, or some other form of adversity? Are you willing to be a change agent? How is this possible?

If you want to stand on the side of being tested, let’s look at who is really being tested. If you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness maybe the scientists are being tested to come up with new research and medications for clinical trials. Maybe the medical community is being tested to find ways of improving their diagnostic techniques or their level of compassion.

Isn’t it possible that the religious, faith, or spiritual community is being tested to see if they walk their talk? In a world full of contradiction, the test might be to see if these communities can put into action what they say we “should” be doing when members of our communities are facing adversity.

It’s possible to take it one step further, seeing if our inner circle of family and friends are willing to stand by us as we walk through the health and healing pilgrimage. Research often shows that illness is the reason some couples get divorced because the healthy spouse can’t handle the pressure, stress, or incapacity of their spouse. Who’s really being tested by the illness diagnosis?

Are we so self-centered to automatically assume that we’re the one being tested? Have we been conditioned to believe that a diagnosis tests our faith, devotion, or ability to persevere? I believe there are other ways to exhibit these character traits other than facing adversity. Let’s reframe the challenges we face!

Seeking education, support, and inspiration when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

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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 www.survivingstrong.com

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We all attribute meaning to words based on the context in our lives. The word survivor has been bestowed upon those who live with a chronic or life-threatening illness. However, the word “survivor”, often, also describes those who have been the victim of traumatic events like violence and natural disasters.

Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the bombing at last year’s Boston Marathon. There have been lots of interviews, television programming, and of course tributes to those who died in this horrific event, and an opportunity to celebrate the way the amazing city of Boston banned together.

This is why I was surprised when I was listening to an interview on NPR’s “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross. Gross was interviewing noted author Barbara Ehrenreich about her new book. At one point in the interview Gross asked Ehrenreich about her 2001 diagnosis with breast cancer. The dialogue took a surprise turn in comparison to many who have been diagnosed with an illness; she was a rebel.

Ehrenreich started by dismissing the “pink” movement as it relates to breast cancer. She’s determined not to die with a pink teddy bear in her arms. She didn’t want to be associated with a specific movement feeling that it’s an insult to the integrity of people facing illness. Whether or not you believe it’s a positive depends on your own identity issues, need to belong to something bigger than yourself, or the opportunity to support an organization that provides support, screening, and research in the breast cancer arena. This dialogue was not the surprise; it was her discussion about not wanting to be called a “survivor”.

Terry Gross dug deeper into the anti-survivor rhetoric by asking Ehrenreich to express her disapproval of being called a “survivor”. Ehrenreich shared that she believes the word “survivor” implies that someone was courageous, brave, and successful beat the disease. Her problem is that she feels that it’s dishonoring all those people who were equally courageous and brave, but whose bodies and treatment regimen didn’t match for the positive. She doesn’t want to diminish any of the positive qualities those who face an illness exhibit.

So is there a difference between surviving and being a “survivor”? What are your ideas on being a survivor? Please share your experience in the comments section below.

For more information on living with chronic and/or life-threatening illness visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

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Ever wonder why people, organizations, even countries write manifestos?  It’s to be able to communicate their platform to the world.  A manifesto is a playbook for the person or group writing it and it informs, interprets, and guides the thoughts and actions of the individual or group providing a road map to what that person/individual considers success.

There are times that a manifesto is used to ignite a cause.  It creates tension-promoting controversy between the individual/group and those who are often in disagreement with their philosophy.  So why would it be important to have a manifesto?

As someone with a chronic or life-threatening illness, a manifesto is a challenge to the individual, the medical community, and the Universe that there is tension.  The manifesto is a way to stake one’s claim that health and healing is the primary objective.  Let’s examine one of the most prominent health and healing manifestos in the past decade.

Suzanne Somers noted for her role of Chrissy on “Three’s Company” was diagnosed with breast cancer.  At the time she refused conventional treatment and chose alternative healing.  Following her return to health, she made it her mission to create an environment that would promote this alternative, and often-controversial method of healing.  She went to write multiple books about her experience and about her views of how the medical community is trying to put one over on the public.  She may not call it a manifesto, but it certainly looks, reads, and acts like a manifesto.

How would you create your manifesto?  Start off my sitting and thinking about what your primary goal is beyond the obvious, getting better or getting well.  It’s as if you are writing a political platform, or branding yourself in the business world.   It’s a way to create a framework for how you will achieve your goal of getting better or getting well.  It’s a roadmap you can follow for your journey to health and healing.

There are many ways you can achieve creating this manifesto.  You can actually write your manifesto as part of a journal.  You can do something expressively that captures the essence of your manifesto whether it be visual or performance art.  Your manifesto can be shared in how and what you share in support groups.  It doesn’t matter how you express it, but having that essence of your determination and conviction is what helps solidify your stance in your body, mind, and soul.

What’s the first action step you’ll take to create your healing manifesto?  What do you believe in your heart of hearts will propel you forward on your journey to wellness?  What personal philosophy to you ascribe to that keeps you motivated to pursue health and healing even when there are challenges placed before you?  How will you share that manifesto with the world?

I’d love to see, hear, or read your manifestos…you can share them in the comment section below or email me at greg@survivingstrong.com

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Last night I attended a group meeting where we discuss different topics related to one’s emotional life.  The topic for the evening was “aloneness and loneliness”.  It’s a topic I’m familiar with personally, but it’s something I think is part of the human condition and the topic never really leaves our lives.

Being diagnosed with an auto-immune disease as a child left me feeling lonely.  I was the only one I knew who was facing a health challenge and socially it left me at odds with myself and my social development.  I remember trying to avoid any discussion of my illness and didn’t know where to turn.  Doctors weren’t a support and although my grandfather had the same health challenge we never discussed it…I don’t think he ever dealt with it on an emotional or spiritual level.

As we went around the room last night many if not most of the group, when discussing loneliness, spoke about isolating.  Members of the group continued sharing and the word isolation kept coming up and the more they said it, the stronger my gut reaction was saying, that’s not it for me (even though that’s what I had said at the beginning). 

My A-ha moment came when about the 10th person talked about wanting to be a part of something, a group, a sense of belonging and that’s what combats loneliness.  In that moment, I realized that when I’m the most lonely is when I’m disconnected from myself.  My feeling lonely is a sure sign that I’m not paying attention to my own needs.  I’m trying to fill my life with events, and people, but not necessarily focusing on my heart and soul.

There was some talk about filling your life by making plans and that combats loneliness.  It reminded me of a story from my childhood.  I have a younger brother and he would chase me (don’t ask me why or why I participated).  I would yell to my mother, “Mom, he’s chasing me”, and she would reply, “Stop running and he can’t chase you”. 

That was my reaction to the idea of overcoming loneliness by making plans.  What happens when we stop running, when we stop making plans to fill our day, when we schedule our days so full hoping to be filled up?  I’ll tell you what happens, you go home exhausted and the loneliness creeps in because you never really dealt with it.

Being diagnosed with a chronic or other life-altering illness can be very lonely.  Very few of us have the opportunity that big stars like Michael J. Fox,  Suzanne Somers, or Montel Williams have where they wrote a book about living with their illness and then travel the country meeting others who are living the same experience dissipating the sense of loneliness. 

This is the benefit of support groups.  They give you a place where when someone says, “I know how you feel”, the odds are good they’re telling the truth, not simply placating you.  I’m a big proponent of support groups but there is a caveat.  The group needs to be facilitated by a trained and competent facilitator.  Nothing can leave you feeling lonelier than a group that has driven far off course and you’re still standing on the road wondering where everyone else went. 

How do you combat loneliness?  How do you foster a connection with yourself?  I’d love to dialogue with you about this.  Simply hit the comment button and think of this as your own support group where you’re not alone and hopefully that results in reducing your sense of loneliness.

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It came as quite a surprise when I heard about the death of Elizabeth Edwards.  I had followed her story from her primary diagnosis and was always amazed at how she dealt with her illness.  I must admit I thought she said a horrible example at the start when she knew she had a lump, but waited till after the election to go to the doctor.  We all know that time is of the essence when cancer is the diagnosis.

When we learned that her cancer had returned and was metastatic; her ability to be positive, hopeful, and purposeful was truly inspiring.  Her concern for her children was admirable.  Even the news reports about how she was a “mother to the end” when she left the children a letter was very touching.

What can we learn from Elizabeth Edwards?  First and foremost was that when horribly stressful events/toxic events enter your life extricate them from your life.  This was the case when the news broke of John Edwards affair and child.  Elizabeth Edwards knew that this type of negative energy would not benefit her body’s ability to heal.  She removed that stress to the greatest extent possible.

I’m still a bit confused about the final news stories about her decline.  Day one we hear she stopped all treatment at the recommendation of her doctors and the next day she was dead.  I wrote a post about hospice in November and here’s a case where hospice would have been helpful and that would have been a wonderful example to set for others facing end-of-life decisions.

I want to thank Elizabeth Edwards for sharing her story.  I want to thank Elizabeth Edwards for her courage.  I want to thank Elizabeth Edwards for living a full life with metastatic disease.  I hope if you’re diagnosed with a life-altering illness that you follow the lead set by Elizabeth Edwards and live life fully while you can.

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