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

What’s Going On In Your Universe?

Since 1969 when we landed a man on the moon, we have been a nation continuously asking questions about the universe.  We want to know if life has ever existed on other planets and what types of life.  We wonder what it would take to set up settlements in these far and distant locations.  Scientists are also wondering about how planets stay in their orbit, and the forces that keep all the planets from crashing into each other.

Gravitational pull is the mediating factor in how planets rotate around the sun.  It’s an amazingly strong force, and keeps order.  Whether you realize it or not, you have gravitational pull.  The energy that emanates from you is what attracts others to you and in times of need this energy is important.  I’m talking about more than just the likeability factor, but a compelling energy that keeps people in your orbit going out of their way to help you on your journey to health and healing.

I follow Robin Roberts from Good Morning America.  She had breast cancer about five years ago and as a result of her treatment, she was one of those who developed other complications.  Her previous treatment resulted in her developing MDS, a bone marrow disorder.  She just recently went through a bone marrow transplant and is on the mend.

She has gravitational pull.  I don’t believe it’s simply because she’s a celebrity.  I believe her personal energy engages the world around her and keeps them connected in physical, emotional, and spiritual orbits.  People are following her on social media, on television, and through interviews.  Her doctors have been on television not only discussing her treatment plan, but explaining the importance of being a bone marrow donor and how this connects us in inexplicable ways.

I believe that if you took a step back and looked at your life, you’d witness your gravitational pull.  I believe this energy far exceeds your family and friends and you may not even be aware of how far reaching it may be.  I attribute this to the way you interacted with people before your diagnosis.  These connections are the foundations for health and healing.  We don’t do it alone, and understanding the force of your gravitational pull may propel you a life full of hope!

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

Fix Me

I listen to a lot of music and when I find something that speaks to me I listen to it over and over again.  One of the things I look for is to find music that has a message.  I like to be able to reinforce my thoughts and beliefs with music because the words and melody continue to play in my head.

Over the summer I rented the movie “Joyful Noise”.  The movie stars two music greats, Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton.  It focuses on a small town’s church choir and their desire to win a singing competition.  One of the subplots is between Queen Latifah’s character and her daughter.  A scene shows Queen Latifah’s character in the church playing the piano and singing a song titled, “Fix Me”.  She’s praying through song.  She’s hoping to appeal to her God to mend fences and show her a path that is healing.

It got me thinking about how many times do we ask/pray to be fixed.  Following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness sparks internal conflict and potentially even conflict within their spiritual/religious life.  It’s not a surprise that we want to be “fixed” because they went of course.  We never know what causes illness, because some who have identical lifestyles never see a day of sickness.  So why do we really feel we need to be “fixed”.

One possibility is that we feel that our lives have been lacking some essential ingredient.  If that’s the case then instead of “fix me”, maybe we can shift to “fulfill me”.  The idea of finding what’s missing and making changes improves our health in body, mind, and spirit.

Another possible explanation would be that we haven’t met our potential.  If that’s the case then maybe it’s not “fix me”, but “extend me”.  Allow me to stretch and reach new heights, allowing me to reach my highest good.

“Fix me” makes me think I’m broken and I don’t believe that about anyone.  Facing a health challenge isn’t about being broken; it’s about being challenged.  It’s about being sent on a journey, not of your own choosing, pushing you to go within to new and deeper levels.  It’s not necessarily joyful until you get to your destination, but the journey to health and healing can have some amazing outcomes.

How would you like to shift the notion of “fix me”?

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 after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness, Storytelling

Oprah…Dr. Phil…Katie…Your Choice

Talk shows have become all the rage on television.  Every major network flooded the market this fall with new shows hoping to get your attention.  What are the networks doing?  They saw a huge opening with Oprah leaving network television and everyone is vying for your attention, and the advertising dollar.  If you watch the shows you’ll notice one thing for sure, they all have their own flavor and point-of-view.

So what would happen if you were going to be a guest on a talk show?  It’s not only what you would talk about, but also how you would handle yourself when on the show.  A lot of this depends on the show you choose, and if I were assigning you to a show it would be based on your demeanor and how you’re handling your health challenge.  I would look at how you’re living your life and that would determine the best host for what you’re showing the world.

If you’re continuously angry about your diagnosis, I might select “The Jerry Springer Show” or “Maury” because you could scream and throw things around the studio.  If you’re in need of gentle support and spiritual guidance, “Oprah” might be the best hope to guide you on that path.  If you’re in a bit of denial and need a bit of tough love, then “Dr. Phil” is your host.

If you were taking a quiz to match your journey to the tv host it would require that you take a personal inventory.  It means that you need to be honest and if you’re ok with your current stance in life, then you’ve got the correct host.  If you don’t like what you’re seeing and feel it’s getting in the way of getting better or getting well, then it’s time to make some changes.

You may not think that the world sees what you’re experiencing, but we’re a lot more transparent than we believe.  This transparency impacts how others respond to you just as a different television hosts would respond differently.  Is your point-of-view aiding your health and healing journey or it is a hindrance?   Who’s show would you thrive on, and do you need to make any changes?  If you really want to be on a talk show, go to the website and see if there’s a show they’re planning that matches your life experience.  Who knows, I may be writing about you after you make your talk show debut!

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

See Through…Fall Through…Saved

I’m one of those people who daydream quite often.  Between daydreaming and doodling in all of my notebooks, it’s a wonder that I get anything done, but it does serve a purpose.  Those moments allow me to incubate thoughts and ideas I have about my life and the experiences I have daily.

As I began to construct this post I had a dozen or so thoughts run through my head, but one image seemed to stand out to me.  It’s the visual of the new glass lookout at The Grand Canyon.  This look out allows you to step over the edge of the canyon (fully supported) and not only look out, but also look down.  For many it’s one of the scariest experiences of their lives (obviously those folks have never been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness).

The actual lookout is not the focus this morning, but what it represents.  When you step out on the lookout you can see through to the bottom, you don’t fall through, so in essence you’re saved.  In our world, during one of the scariest times in our lives, you’re supported even though simultaneously terrified.  You have the benefit of transparency, but not the risk.  It’s this experience that many with a health challenge embrace.  There is an adventure like quality to the experience, but it has very high stakes.  Do you feel supported while stepping out on an emotional or spiritual see through ledge?  Who’s providing you with that support and is it enough?

If your soul had a lookout point, where would it be?  What is it that you can see from this lookout point?  Is what you see scary or comforting?  What’s it like to have the illusion of doom, but the reality of safety?  These are the questions that arise when I begin one of these explorations.  My world is all about dangling the carrot that keeps me asking questions.  These questions propel me forward on my own journey to health and healing.

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

Crack Open the Fortune Cookie and Be Surprised

I went to the Chinese restaurant for dinner the other night and at the end of the meal, as is customary, I received a fortune cookie.  Most of the time I’m indifferent to them because they say something either so obvious or so absurd that I leave it on the table to be swept away with the other trash.

This evening was different.  I had one of those fortunes that actually made me think.  It was even something I could agree with, so I’m sharing it with you.  What if you, “Make your life an exclamation, not an explanation”.   It’s simple and to the point, but what does it mean for you, someone diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness?

I believe it’s about claiming each and every day.  It’s making conscious decisions about what you do on your journey to health and healing instead of looking back at what might have happened.  It’s proactive and doesn’t reek of shame.  It’s about taking responsibility for what the decision you make in your life instead of the excuses you may be prone to making on a regular basis.

When you “make your life an exclamation” it becomes a celebration.  It may not be a ticker tape parade, but it’s the soapbox you stand on, not the thing you hide behind.  You show others what’s possible instead of backtracking about what could have been.

Let’s face it; coming up with explanations is exhausting.  It drains you of the precious internal resources you need to get better or get well!  When you need to explain things it enters the realm of storytelling and with that comes a certain degree of fiction.  Is that how you want to live your life?  As a fiction character?

Living life as an exclamation is the true story.  It’s the story you want to share with others instead of one you hope no one asks you about.  It’s the story that serves as a catalyst for the next day of our life and hopefully every day builds upon the day before!

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

The Heroes You Meet Every Day

You never know whom you will meet on your journey to health and healing but I it may surprise you.  I’m constantly amazed at the bravery, tenacity, and perseverance of those facing chronic and life-threatening illnesses.  It can be a lonely life facing a health challenge, but connection is possible and certainly encouraged.  I love reading stories about those who are proactive about getting better or getting well; it’s heartwarming.

One of the things about reading magazine articles, blogs, listening to interviews, etc. is the ability to connect with these individuals without ever meeting them.  I always loved Michael J. Fox, but I have a new love, respect, and connection to him after reading his book, “Always Looking Up”.  There are so many stories that bring us closer to others, and it’s those stories that excite us, encourage us, and move us forward on our journey.

One of the most beautiful lines I heard in response to hearing someone’s story about bravely facing illness came from a viewer of a television show.  The person’s response to the woman facing cancer was, “I don’t know you, but I’ll never forget you!”  Doesn’t that just capture the essence of connection?  Doesn’t it provide you with a sense that you’re not alone?  Doesn’t it make you feel supported, acknowledged, and strong?

I just completed interviewing artists with life-threatening illnesses, and although I did meet them; I’ll never forget them.  They’re courage, their stories, and their authenticity are definitely models for living a good life.  My time with these heroes was a life-changing experience and I’ve been doing this work for 25 years; that’s epic!

Who will you meet in person or through some other means during your day?  How will their story impact your life?  What’s the take away from their story and what will you do today that’s different from what you did yesterday.  For more information about facing chronic and life-threatening illness go to www.survivingstrong.com or email me at greg@survivingstrong.com.

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

If Mary Chapin Carpenter Sang It; It Must Be True

I was in the car yesterday listening to NPR and there was a segment with Mary Chapin Carpenter, the fabulous musician.  The intro to the segment talked about the loss she had suffered in the past couple of years: a pulmonary embolism,  a divorce, and the death of her father.  She lived through enormous grief and took those experiences to the studio to create her new album.

I always keep a pad and pencil ready because inspiration and questions arise throughout the day.  When Mary Chapin Carpenter began to sing and reached the chorus I was hooked.  The song she was singing is titled, “Chasing What’s Already Gone”.  Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

I started to think about all the thousands of stories I’ve listened to over the years about how individuals and families survive an illness.  There are many, whether they realize it or not, who are chasing their life prior to their diagnosis.  Even if your health returns, you are not the same person.  Chasing the person you were is impossible.  These new experiences on your journey to health and healing have changed you forever.  It’s amazing how subtle the changes can be, but if you’re willing to be honest with yourself you’ll notice those internal shifts.

My concern is for those who are chasing what’s already gone; a life without illness.  There are people who will face chronic conditions, but are striving to be the person they were before the diagnosis; how is that getting in the way of your inner peace and happiness?  We’ve discussed creating a life with a new normal and that seems to reap the most rewards.  “Chasing What’s Already Gone” potentially seems like a bigger drain of personal resources than the health challenge.

My question for you is how can you chase what’s possible instead of what’s already gone?  How will you set yourself up for success instead of grief and strife?  If you’re looking for some extra support, feel free to email me at greg@survivingstrong.com.

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

What If Your Story Made It To National Television?

I was watching “The Jeff Probst Show” yesterday with his special guest, supermodel, Paulina Porizkova.  The conversation centered on beauty in our culture and how it impacts us as a society.  During the interview Porizkova mentioned a woman she felt is truly beautiful.  The woman, Kelly Pozzoli, was Jeff Probst’s first guest.  Pozzoli is  a woman from St. Louis who is battling cervical cancer.  It just so happens that Probst had already planned an update with Pozzoli, so she was on standby on Skype.

When Probst checked in with Kelly Pozzoli, they discussed the ups and downs of dealing with a life-threatening illness, along with her current treatment strategies.  Her upbeat demeanor and determination for recovery is inspiring.  She even revealed a rather invasive treatment strategy that she’s considering since chemotherapy hasn’t had the impact she or her medical team would like.

While Probst was wrapping up this segment of the show he mentioned that along with checking in with Pozzoli, following her journey, that two oncologists had contacted the show and wanted to review Pozzoli’s chart to see if there was anything they could offer this new celebrity.

I started thinking about what would your life be like if your story made it to national television.  Who would see your story and want to extend their expertise to help you on your journey to health and healing?  How would your life change if the country could support your, even if just virtually?

It definitely changes the playing field to have the world know your struggles and triumphs.  You may not be able to get on national television, but I’m wondering what can you do to expand your world?  How could you rally the support you need to get better or get well?  It’s interesting that we, the audience, get to travel the journey with Kelly Pozzoli, how can we follow you?  What would it mean to you to have mega-support?

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

As Life Gets Bigger and Smaller

It’s getting cooler as we move through the fall season.  Unfortunately, as the months go by we know that winter can’t be far behind.  One of the things that happen when it gets cold is that everything contracts.  You might notice your rings getting loose around the cooler weather and expanding during the summer when you’re warm.  It’s amazing how physical aspects of science, expanding and contracting, represent the emotional and spiritual aspects of our lives.

The diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness can be like the cold of winter, giving you’re the experience of your life contracting.  It’s not unusual to feel that your life gets smaller following the diagnosis of a health challenge.  You may go through transitions that limit your activities or ability to concentrate.   Many people start to experience anxiety and depression when their life contracts, so there’s only one solution…make it expand.

You may be wondering how in the midst of chaos you can expand your life.  First ask yourself how you want to expand your life.  What do you want to be able to do that you feel is slipping away from you.  Please realize that depending on the diagnosis there may need to be alterations to the plan because there may actually be limitations to your physical abilities.  Find out what you can do and continue doing it!

On the emotional level expand your life by expressing yourself authentically and creatively.  Explore ways sharing your story.  Seek opportunities to find aspects of your story in the Universe.  I had this experience a few months ago.  I decided to go to the movies and I went to see “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”.  The movie was outstanding, but a sleeper at the box office.  I left the theater feeling exhilarated and inspired to explore what possibilities exist in my life.  The movie serves as a catalyst to seek a lifetime adventure that I know is part of my journey.

When it comes to your spiritual life, expansion comes from questions.  It comes from transitions your life from wondering “If Only” to “What Next”.  It requires that you go deep within the well in your soul to seek what has meaning for you and what you would like to explore on the journey to health and healing.  Reflection is an important part of this part of your life expansion.  This is a time to find the lessons learned in each and every experience.

How will you expand your life if it has been contracting?  What moves your body, mind, and spirit to find those expansion opportunities?