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

Fighting or Dancing?

Getting the body to move can often be a struggle depending on your particular health challenge.  When you think about fighting and dancing various thoughts come to mind, but overall being committed to action is important.  We’ve become a culture that commits partially and then we wonder why we don’t get results.  I began thinking about this when I saw a commercial for the remake of the iconic film, The Karate Kid.  The young man is instructed in activities believing they are punishment, but in the end they make him a champ.

So what direction would you like to go?  If you want to fight it requires an enormous amount of resources.  You may have to train before engaging in the fight and it can take a lot out of you making a recovery period a requirement.  Fighting something like a health challenge on the emotional front is another story, but there are better ways of achieving health and healing.

On the other hand, dancing requires finesse.  It requires a new level of grace along with the commitment to the dance.  It means partnering and for many it may not be something you’re familiar or comfortable with in your life.  Dancing requires establishing an emotional and spiritual sense of rhythm.  This new sense of rhythm is the beat of your soul.  It can take you to new levels of consciousness.  This new ability enables you to move in and out of difficult situations with grace.  You become flexible and teachable, important qualities for health and healing.

You always have a choice as to how you will tackle your health challenge.  When you decide to fight it means you’re coming from the place of the victim and you’re fending off evil (to some degree it’s true).  When you’re not sure how to confront your health challenge, dancing provides you with exciting options.  When you dance you’re open to new suggestions and your soul is available for healing energy to enter.

What choice will you make?  Dancing allows you a sense of freedom, releasing you from the ball and chain of your health challenge.  Give yourself the gift of the dance.

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

Are You a Track Star?

I’m not the physical activity kind of guy which is why I’m asking you the question about being a track star.  Truth be told I’m not interested in your literal ability to run like a track star, but your emotional and spiritual ability to be the fastest runner on the planet.  When runners run they run toward the finish line.  As non-runners when we run we generally are running away from something.  What are you running from?  Gee, what could it be?

When faced with a diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness the first response is to hide and the next likely candidate is to run.  But where will you run to and how fast can you get there.  You run because you feel like the illness is chasing you toward an unknown abyss.  You run because if you can keep enough distance between you and the diagnosis it won’t catch you and you won’t have to deal with it…too late for that!

As a kid my younger brother would chase me for fun (he was the athletic one).  I would scream to my mother and say, “Mom, Eric is chasing me”.  She would gently reply, “Stop running and he can’t chase you”.  Believe it or not that thought had never occurred to me.  I thought when faced with the fear of being chased running was the most likely response when in actuality diffusing his attempt at chasing was far more effective.

Stop in your tracks!  If you think you can outrun your diagnosis then you are more delusional than I had anticipated.  All running does is delay the inevitable, that is facing the diagnosis with a fierce determination to get well.  Running takes time and energy that we don’t want to waste on activities that don’t yield a positive result.  Running is exhausting (or so I’m told). 

If you are going to run I strongly urge you to run toward something.  Find a doctor that you believe will be the answer to your prayer and run as fast as you can to get there.  Find a support group that will give unconditional support when you’re too exhausted to run.  Find a spiritual director who will guide you on the biggest pilgrimage on your life toward health and healing.  Whatever you do be conscious that you’re running toward something and not running away or avoiding something.

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

The Climb May be More Important than Reaching the Summit

Everyone has their own Everest.  Prior to being diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness it may have been money, work, status, or family obligations.  The goals you set were based on the rules and expectations of your tribe.  You were a part of a collective that set parameters for being happy.

When you received the news of your diagnosis things changed.  Your priorities shifted, your world view had to be refocused, and your life trajectory took a direction.  When exploring your new life trajectory, health and healing are in the foreground of your vision.  Once the shock of the health challenge diminishes, you become capable of finding new opportunities as you climb your new Everest. 

The climb to the summit when facing a health challenge is no different from any other climb, but the stakes are higher.  It’s no longer about how you are seen by others, but how you see your inner self and how that projects out for the world to witness.  It’s true that the climb can be exhausting, frustrating, and confusing but it’s not a race; it’s a paradigm shift.  Having the capacity to make healthier decisions on the physical, emotional, and spiritual arenas of your life will provide you with great options and more generalizable tools for reinventing your life.

Your new Everest is able to be scaled.  Taking each leg of your journey with mindful steps will enable you to pace yourself as you head to the summit of health and healing.

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

Contract Negotiations

Do you think the word compromise has gotten a bad rap?  In an age of economic struggle all we hear about these days in Congress are the negotiations for a stimulus package and the negotiations are strained.  We read parenting magazines that discuss the struggles between parent and child over everything from cleaning their room to bedtime to eating.  Is there any place where we don’t engage in negotiations?

If you remember a couple of weeks ago I referenced Dr. Mehmet Oz when he referred to auto-immune disease as a Civil War.  During times of war if diplomacy is to work then negotiations have to be the focus.  The question is who do we negotiate with?  If you think of Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ stages of grief you know that bargaining is one of the stages.  During those times we often make a deal with God or some higher source that if we get well, in return we’ll _____(you fill in the blank).  For many whether it’s divine intervention or the stars in alignment we begin to make promises with the expectations that we’ll get something in return.

How good are we as negotiators?  I’m afraid the research shows that we’re great at negotiating but lousy at following through on the promises we make.  You would think that when it comes to our health the promises we make wouldn’t be just words but a sacred contract.  How is it that we can enter negotiations without expecting to share any of the burden?  What is it about false promises that boost our engagement but then we plummet into the ravine like the crash following a sugar rush.

Does your word mean anything?  How will you take you at your word when negotiating with your body for wellness?  What do you have to offer in the negotiations?  How will you feel when you not only successfully negotiate the terms of your healing but follow through on your end of the bargain?  Don’t you feel that you’ll be more at peace if you know that you stand by your intentions by having your actions match your decisions?  What’s one small thing you’d like to negotiation for today?  I’d love to know how you’re managing the negotiations!

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

The Impact of Vitamin D On Breast Cancer

I listen to a lot of news programs and interview shows.  I was astounded to hear the findings from the study based out of the University of Toronto.  The study looked at the impact Vitamin D has on women who are facing breast cancer.  The outcome results are amazing and what is surprising me the most is after that first day I haven’t heard anything since.

The study examined Vitamin D levels in women diagnosed with breast cancer.  It found that women who were Vitamin D deficient had serious threats to their health and the outcome of their treatment.  In women who were Vitamin D deficient 93% were more likely to have the cancer spread.  The results become more shocking…74% of breast cancer patients who were Vitamin D deficient were more likely to die.

Now that we know how come this isn’t a huge public health campaign to get the word out to these women?  With this kind of outcome study I can’t believe women aren’t taking to the streets demanding more research and new protocols be developed taking into account the impact Vitamin D has on the immune system.

Working with those facing life-altering health problems for over twenty years I’m disappointed that this news was put on the back burner.  Aside from women sitting in the sun to get Vitamin D naturally what else can be done?  Are there infusions?  Breast cancer patients are already receiving infusions, would one more be so bad, especially if it prevented metastasis or death?

What will you do to check your own Vitamin D levels?  You can see if you have sufficient Vitamin D long before when and if you’ll ever be diagnosed with breast cancer.  Don’t you want to give yourself every possible advantage?

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Having a Voice, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness, Partnerships, Personal Conviction

Pain and Income…Are they related?

I heard about a study that discussed the amount of pain people experience and believe it or not it’s correlated to income.  I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise since pain management is often related to having good medical coverage, but does that make sense to you?

The study stated that people who make $30,000 per year were in three times greater pain than those earning $100,000 a year.  The degree of pain is directly proportional to income.  I can’t believe that the medical community would allow this to happen.  Having worked in a community health center for years I know there are funds available if someone can’t afford medication and aren’t covered by Medicaid or other insurance.  Clinics have funds for uninsured patients and often have funds to pay for medication with pharmacies in their neighborhood.

Pain is one of the key factors that make facing a life-altering diagnosis so difficult.  It effects every aspect of our daily lives and not having it under control is often debilitating.  This is why we need to look for ways to increase health insurance coverage in the country.

I know that some providers may say that they are afraid of prescribing pain medications because too often patients at all income levels are drug seeking.  Unfortunately, with wealthier patients the pain is taken more seriously.  We all have to break the stereotypes we have about how income level, race, education level have on our perceptions of people when they tell us they’re in pain.  It’s no laughing matter.

Posted in Personal Conviction, Self-Nurture

No Time for Rest

Many would like to think that the holiday season and the New Year are times to relax and take a break.  That’s in an ideal world where what we want and what we have are often two different things.  When contending with a life-altering illness the health issue never takes a holiday.  It’s not like you can go on vacation from your illness, although there are times when your doctor deems it appropriate to take a drug holiday, but that’s something different.

 Many aren’t able to understand why we don’t seem any different.  Maybe it’s the daily reminder of the the pill bottles in the cabinet that serve to keep our battle in front of our face that makes a difference.  So what can we do if we can’t rest from fighting our fights?  We can be gentle to and with ourselves.  It’s possible to give yourself a gift of kindness.  It’s free and you can give yourself that gift any time of day or night.

I don’t recommend trying to explain to the world why this time of year isn’t any different for you, but reflect on your courage.  It makes me think of the holiday special “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”.  In the show after the Grinch realizes he didn’t rob the villagers of their Christmas spirit his heart grows three times in size.  This is why it’s important to develop your own definition of courage and experience it in your body.

I’m a firm believer in loud and unabashed self-expression.  Express yourself creatively.  Wear a funky sweater or hat.  Write a poem that you can use as a personal mantra.  Play some music and dance like you’re trying to awaken every cell in your body.  Paint, sculpt, sew, knit…do whatever gets you to express yourself and shows off your uniqueness.

Let me know how you’re expressing yourself and share it with the world.  It’s one way you not only be a role model, but a goal model for those just beginning their journey.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Having a Voice, In the Know, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Are You Integrated?

I’m getting ready to leave for Gainesville, Florida where I’ll be taking a week long course on Art and Healing.  The assignment we need to bring to class is to write a paper answering the question “What do you need to heal in your life?  I’ve been thinking a lot about that question because most would say their illness.  That’s true and that’s the immediate, gut response.  The difficult part is differentiating between healing and curing.

As I mentioned in one of my previous sharings, curing is limited for most diseases.  Most life-altering illnesses the hope is to ward off the impact of the disease or the disease progression.  So what is healing?  Healing is about peace.  Healing is about removing the baggage that you keep tripping over while you’re trying to tackle the health issues that are in your body.  Healing requires that you BREATHE!

I asked the question about integration because so many people in the world live compartmentalized lives.  The illness persona is one aspect of their lives and most work very hard to isolate it from the rest of their being.  Integration acknowledges the illness as a part of the whole but not as a defining factor.

When I worked in HIV/AIDS services I would continuously  hear clients say they are HIV+.  I would ask them to stop and rephrase the statement to “I have HIV”.  The difference is in does the illness define your or is it a part of you?  When it’s  a part of you it’s possible to integrate it into a larger picture.  Yes, it will undoubtedly shade your thoughts, visions and ideas about the world, but who you are hasn’t changed, maybe you are more integrated now and there is a  more complete picture waiting to be shared with the world.

Posted in Community, Partnerships

Hierarchy in Illnesses?

Following the media is not necessarily the best thing for your health.  Having worked in the psychoneuroimmunology field for twenty years I’m well aware of the mind-body-spirit connection and am fascinated at the power the mind plays in health.  What I don’t understand is when people try and play “can you top this ” with their health.

How did our health become so politicized?  I mean I understand the importance of funding for research, but to does that mean that we have to create an illness hierarchy?  Do we wind up creating a system like in poker where a particular illness trumps another illness?

I listened to an interview with Michael Moore, the controversial filmmaker, about his new film “Sicko”.  He was showing how those who served after 9/11 and are now suffering from lung ailments are not receiving as good care as the prisoners we have in Guantanamo Bay.  I don’t understand how that could happen, but it’s true.

As pilgrims our voices have to be heard.  We walk a journey together and it’s important that those in decision making positions understand and hear our voices loudly so that nonprofits providing care for uninsured women with breast cancer can become a thing of the past.

No one should feel that their illness isn’t “bad enough”.  Compassion for those facing life-altering diagnoses will serve as a healthy dose of immune booster, it’s better than taking a spoon full of sugar to help the medicine go down.