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

Telling Stories is Important

I’m always on the lookout for a good story. I’ve listened to thousands of stories in support groups over the past twenty-five years and have learned from each and every story. In addition to spoken stories, I’ve assimilated stories from books into my storytelling repertoire. These stories become important catalysts to pass on valuable information and prompt people to seek out their own uplifting, solution based stories.

If you’ve read my past blog posts you know that my mother was diagnosed with diabetes about four years ago. She’s a health and healing champion. She’s inquisitive and a good advocate for herself with her medical team. The one thing that continually pops up is the idea of hope. I know it’s something I struggle with when dealing with my own health issues.

I shared a story from Jerome Groopman’s, “The Anatomy of Hope” and she was intrigued. The story peeked her interest to the point that she went to the library and checked out the book. She also took the inspirational story one step further; at her next doctor appointment she told the nurse practioner about Groopman’s book spreading the inspiration.

Hope can be contagious. It can be derived from personal experiences, spiritual experiences, and stories from others. It is available to all of us in times of need as long as we search for it. Hope can seem elusive, but it’s important to never stop the search. We don’t have to have all the answers; we just have to learn where to look for clues to where hope lives.

I find acquiring a stockpile of stories of hope gives me a well to draw from in times of need. These stories are like having my own personal reservoir of hope. There are times, just like in nature that the reservoir levels are low; that’s the motivation to acquire new inspiring stories.

We all need hope. Knowing where to find it is paramount to your experience of hope. I hope you’ll develop your own reservoir of hope. I’d love to hear some of your hope inspiring stories.   If you have a story or resource feel free to share it with us in the comment section below or you can reach me at For additional information check out

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Doctor's Visits, living with chronic illness

How Proactive Are You With Your Symtoms?

I’ve been very aware of my body for a very long time.  I know that many of you will say, “Well of course you know your body, what’s new?”  Well the truth is, and those of you with an illness I’m sure will concur, when you have an illness you have a new and intensified intimacy with your body, inside and out.

There are times when simple little things may turn in to big things.  While I was away, working out-of-state, I noticed that the amount of gum I was chewing had increased sharply.  You may be laughing at this point asking why chewing gum implies a symptom or illness.  Well to tell you the truth, I didn’t think about it for a couple of months.  When I returned home I began to wonder, much more focused, about what this could mean.

As I began to ponder what this might mean to my health it occurred to me that maybe I was chewing gum because I was thirsty.  As I began to explore this as a symptom I began to wonder about diabetes.  My maternal family has a long-standing history of diabetes.  My mother was diagnosed about four years ago with diabetes and began insulin injections a few months ago.

It was time for my annual lab tests checking my liver function and lipid panel.  When I called the nurse in the dermatology, I asked if it were possible for her to add a glucose test to the panel.  I was hoping she would be able to add this test instead of sending me to my primary care physician for this non-dermatology related lab test.  She did add this to my lab order.

I had the tests done and not only was my lipid panel great, my glucose level was right in the middle of the normal range. Obviously these results were great relief and one of those moments when I followed up an inkling in my body.  Having this knowledge of my body, my family history, and an knowledge of common illness symptoms helps as I move through life as a person with a long-standing health challenge.  My hope was not to add to the list of diagnoses on my medical chart.

How well do you know your body?  How much do you know about your family medical history?  Are you attuned to your body and do you notice subtle changes in your physical being?  These are important on your 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

Counting, Measuring, and Weighing…Are We Counting the Wrong Things?

We live  in a number obsessed culture.  We worry about age, height, weight, shoe size, dress size, calories, fat, carbohydrates, blood pressure, glucose levels, test scores, electoral votes, nuclear arsenals, Richter scales, and the list goes on and on.  If things didn’t have a number attached to it I don’t know what we’d do except figure out a way to attach a number to it.  We set ourselves up to be crazed, upset, anxious, and a host of other negative emotions.  Are we counting the wrong things?

We had a customer last night who is getting a furniture delivery today.  He spoke to my associate when he said, “I’m getting a delivery tomorrow and on my sales receipt it doesn’t mention the pillows on the couch, I counted 9 pillows; there better be 9 pillows on the couch.”  My associate assured him that the couch will be delivered as he saw it in the showroom.  He was fixated on the number 9, for those of you who know numerology maybe you can share the meaning of the number 9 so I can calm this man down.  He was fixated on a number because any other number had significance to him; that he was being cheated.  What would happen if the couch showed up with 10 pillows?

So what do I think you should be counting?  How many times did you smile at someone or did they smile at you?  How many times today did you receive a complement?  How many times did you laugh today?  How many texts did you receive with someone saying, “Just thinking about you?”  These numbers have significant impact on your health.  Reaffirming who is in your heart is soothing, comforting, and reminds you that you’re not alone as you go through your journey to health and healing.  Laughing releases endorphins reducing pain and igniting the immune system.  A complement acknowledges your efforts whether it’s related to work or pleasure.  Your efforts are recognized and appreciated….who doesn’t want to be recognized and appreciated.

What are you counting in your day and is it making you feel any better?   I realize some numbers we can’t get away from like the glucometer reading for a diabetic or the blood pressure reading for someone with hypertension.  However, if you reserved your numbers and counting for those things that are vital to your health and wellness and left the counting off the non-essential things don’t you think your quality of life would be better?  Leave a comment and let me know what you’re counting that is or isn’t working for you.

Posted in Uncategorized

Does Everyone have a Secret?

Families are funny because they create interesting communication scenarios that complicates life.  I had a funny experience with my family this weekend that I want to share and see if you or someone you know has ever experienced something similar.

My parents came for a visit, a long weekend, since we hadn’t seen each other in a while.  At one point I’m walking with my dad and he tells me that my mother’s doctor had left a message saying that the blood test she had gone in for came back with results that were elevated.  The message also went on to say that my mother needed to go in to speak with the doctor about treatment options (it was a glucose test).  My father went on to say that he didn’t want to tell my mother about the test results until their mini-vacation was over so she wouldn’t worry. 

A day later my mother, who is technologically challenged, had me look at her cell phone.  I noticed she had a small envelope at the top of the screen and told her she had a message.  Lo and behold the doctor had left a message about her test results.  She didn’t seem scared or anxious at the news, but resolved, like it’s just one more thing.  She told me not to tell my dad.

At this point I had to tell each of them that the other knew about the message.  What’s the underlying message of the story?  Each was trying to protect the other from the news left by the doctor.  Like most people my family doesn’t always deal with medical issues that well ( they leave that to me) so a possible diabetes diagnosis was not in the cards.  I thought it was sweet that they wanted to protect one another.  My dad definitely doesn’t deal with medical issues well, he won’t even take an aspirin when he’s sick, so the idea of treatment of any kind sends him to the stratosphere.

What’s the real essence of the story?  We want to believe that we’re protecting others by not sharing news, but that often backfires.  You may not think others can handle the news, but you’d be surprised; I certainly was this weekend.  When facing a health challenge, or a mental illness the truth is that when we put ourselves in the competent and compassionate care of a good provider the journey is easier.  It’s never pleasant, but it does make it easier.

The secret, although well intended, can bind you in uncomfortable communication patterns.  Get it out there and free yourself from being bound!

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

Expo World

They came out in droves!  I was shocked to see how many people were fleeting to the entrance of the convention center.  If I didn’t know what was happening I’d have thought a rock concert may have been about to begin.  The truth is that the enormous number of people entering the convention center were there for a very specific and important issue…Diabetes.  The American Diabetes Association (ADA) is hosting Expo’s across the country providing information and resources to the ever increasing number of people diagnosed with Diabetes.  It’s epidemic proportions and as a culture we certainly need to address the factors that provide the gateway for Diabetes to creep in.

I’m thankful for organizations such as the ADA for providing tremendous access to resources that can help each person with Diabetes lead a better and more healthful life.  I’m amazed that so many people were coming out to seek out information and resources to improve their lives.  I guess the first question I have is “how much do the people at the Expo understand about their disease process?” and “what are their personal internal resources to utilize the information provided?”

The Expo model for educating anyone with a chronic or life-threatening illness is a questionable attempt at educating the public.  I walked around the Expo hall and was amazed at the following observations:

        1.  The number of people attending talks was minimal.  Of course some of that could have been that the speakers were speaking under less than optimal circumstances.  They were on stages in the corners of the expo center, using microphones, but competing against the loud voices throughout the hall.  It was so distracting that the speakers could barely hear the questions from the audience.  The “educational” component of the expo was counter-productive for most of the attendees.

       2.  There were so many booths by manufacturers of glucose meters that it felt like one infomercial after the other.  My concern is that like the ads in the magazines, the companies who make the meters are trying a bottom up model of sales.  They are hoping to get the patient to go to the doctor and prescribe their meter for monitoring their glucose levels.  Here’s the problem…by the end of the day if the attendee walked through the expo hall they would have obtained information on at least 8 different glucose meters.  What are they going to do with that information?  How will they discriminate between what’s a good meter and what’s a good meter for them?  Will this encourage Expo participants to ask their doctors?  That’s my hope, but my experience is that the patient gets overwhelmed and disheartened about their disease because it’s too much information.

      3.  A high percentage of those attending were good Expo attendees; they got bags of information, traveled from table to table picking up samples of products and feeling like they hit the jackpot.  If we went to the majority of the attendees homes we’d find that the information stays in the bag until it’s ready to throw it out.  The attendees are overwhelmed by the amount of information and furthermore they aren’t prepared to sift through the mounds of information in a mindful manner that will serve to better their health and their lives.  Of course there are some exceptions but they are in the minority.  It was about the free bag of brown rice or energy drink that got people’s attention.

I’m all for education and public awareness, but let’s do it in a way that truly encourages patient participation.  It’s crucial for the patients and providers to meet in an environment that isn’t like playing “supermarket sweep” and provide them with opportunities to ask unhurried questions.

I will say this, the ADA did have certified diabetes educators where patients could ask questions one-on-one.  That’s a good start, but not beneficial for the masses.  My hope is that organizations providing this type of information consider making a more meaningful impact even if it means reaching fewer people.  If we set the standards higher for how we obtain information I believe we can create role models and goal models for living healthier lives.

Posted in coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, In the Know

Know Your Illness

We get a diagnosis and we think we understand all that entails.  Often patients aren’t aware of the complications that accompany a particular illness.  You focus on the primary diagnosis and are surprised when something, you think, pops up out of the blue, but to the medical professionals it’s not a surprise.

As an example, let’s look at diabetes.  There are the obvious problems associated with diabetes and a medication regimen or treatment protocol involving diet and exercise are implemented.  Unless the patient is given a thorough education about the illness they may be surprised when the disease progresses and vision problems occur or down the road kidney failure enters the picture.

It’s not just physical ailments, but psychological ailments as well.  Those with eating disorders, if not treated, not only do they continue to lose or gain weight, but a host of problems often arise.  In the case of someone who is anorexic, if their weight drops too suddenly and not under medical care there is a chance of kidney failure or heart attack due to electrolyte imbalance.  Bulimics run the risk that their esophagus will be eroded due to the acid that accompanies regurgitation.

It’s not only the primary diagnosis we need to be concerned about the secondary and tertiary problems that can arise.  This is why patient education programs need to be thorough. If patients are aware of the drastic consequences of their actions, they may be more inclined to be compliant with medication or other treatment regimens.

Have you experienced a secondary illness arising from your primary diagnosis?  How did you cope with the complexities of multiple health challenges?  What information would you have needed at the start of your journey to wellness to side step those complications?  When you share and tell your story you empower yourself and others to be better health consumers.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Emotional Health, Having a Voice, Personal Conviction

Mind-Body Connection…DUH!

The news agencies reported on a study that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, linking Diabetes and Depression.  The study looked at over 6,000 individuals.  What did they find?  The found that those suffering from type 2 diabetes were more prone to depression, and lo and behold those with depression were more prone to getting diabetes.

I say it’s not a surprise because we’ve been discussing the mind/body connection for years.  This type of study is a message to everyone facing some type of health crisis to get treatment, good treatment, and find a way to make peace with the illness.  It’s the struggles that are associated to living life with an illness that creates these secondary conditions.

No one wants to have to tackle more than one health crisis at a time.  If you are facing a life-altering diagnosis consider ways to live life beyond illness.  For tips you might consider information on the website  Don’t suffer, learn to life live beyond the illness.  Find ways to assimilate the illness into your being so you have it and it doesn’t have you.

The longer we live the greater the chances of facing some type of illness.  Let’s keep it to a minimum by understanding that the mind/body connection is real.  Let’s not give illness the opportunity to co-opt our quality of life.  Let’s take the illness and put it in its place, figuratively and literally.  Let’s make the case for greater support services that serve as an adjunct to medical treatment.  Let’s tell our providers that our mental health is as important as our physical health and vise versa, and create a comprehensive treatment plan.  Put the odds in your favor and keep the mind/body connection in the foreground and you’ll make healthier choices.