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

Transitions!

Yesterday I spoke about the closing of Visual Aid, an important San Francisco nonprofit.  I received an invitation to a fundraising event taking place in the coming days.  You may ask why would a nonprofit that’s closing continue to promote events.  I’ll tell you why; it’s because they are forward thinking.  They are showing their true concern for the participants in their program.  Julie Blankenship, the Executive Director, is creating a transition plan for those who have depended on the organization for over twenty years.

Transitions are difficult for everyone, but when you have a chronic or life-threatening illness transition becomes a way of life.  I’m not saying transition is easy, but I am saying it becomes more of a constant than for those without a health challenge.  It’s one of the most trying aspects of a health challenge…change!

What if we took the idea of transition management and applied it to our lives?  As someone with a health challenge, it’s easy to get caught up in the trials and tribulations of the day-to-day uncertainty of what our bodies will do at any given moment.  It’s not uncommon for medications to change their level of efficacy.  Symptoms may change or emerge without notice (symptoms don’t send a warning to our conscious selves).

I’d like to say that change is easy, but I’d be faking.  Change is often equated to loss.  This is apparent when we see the emails coming from Visual Aid as they begin the final phase of their story.  I hope we can all take lessons from as we move through out own set of change and loss.  Visual Aid is being proactive, supportive, and compassionate in their transition.  How can we become more proactive in our lives when it comes to our health (I’ll discuss this more in days to come)?  How compassionate are you to your own body, emotional state, and soul?

Transitions allow us to seek options.  They provide us with a continual set of crossroads allowing us to consider alternatives.  Possibility has to be a part of our consciousness.  What lies ahead for the participants of Visual Aid I can’t say, but I can ask you, what are you going to do today to manage your life transitions?

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, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

If Michelle Obama Said It; It Must Be True

The Democratic National Convention ended last Thursday, but more importantly, the week started off with a riveting speech by the First Lady, Michelle Obama.  She was eloquent and on point making her message clearly and powerfully.  It wasn’t until she said, “Life isn’t a sprint, it’s not even a marathon…Life is a relay”.

When I heard that line it clicked that she was talking about how reliant we are on others to make sure we make it to the finish line.  The African proverb goes, “If you want to get somewhere fast, go it alone; but if you want to go far, go with others”.  That’s the message Michelle Obama was sharing.  We wanted us to know that as a country all of our efforts are part of the solution and success of our country.   The follow-up question for some is what does that have to do when facing a health challenge?

Fact of the matter is that you only have so many internal resources at your disposal.  Most of us aren’t medical doctors or complementary health providers so there will be times when we need to pass the baton to those who will guide our journey.  Ultimately you’re the captain of the team, so what support do you need from your team members?

Aside from the obvious, medical knowledge, your team can help keep the team on its path on the journey to health and healing.  Your team members will help you recruit others to be part of the relay by referring you to specialists, or recommending other resources like support groups, benefits advocates, or spiritual directors.

It may be hard to pass the baton because we all want to feel in complete control all the time, but when you allow those with special knowledge and skills carry the baton you gain from their experience and give body, mind, and spirit a breather to regroup.  Your relay team will propel your forward in your quest for getting better or getting well if you allow them to show their strengths.  On a relay team they often put their fastest runner in the last spot of the race because they can make up time that may have been lost in earlier legs of the race.  Who is that person in your life?  The person who anchors your relay team may change based on the particular race you’re running on any given day.

The First Lady offered us as individuals and a country some sound advice; will you take it and make it work in your life?

Posted in art and healing, creativity and health

Accessing New Creativity For Telling Your Story

Welcome to Art and Healing Wednesday!!

It’s that time of year when some of my old favorite and new favorite reality shows are on television.  My old standby is “So You Think You Can Dance”.  I think those young dancers are amazing, have enormous talent, and speak volumes with their bodies.  My new favorite is “The Voice”, because the show is geared to talented people regardless of age, and the selection is based on their voice, not a stereotype of what a successful singer should look like.  The key in both of these shows is that the contestants are true to their craft.  They tell a story, express themselves, and are following their passion…it’s their oxygen.

I understand that with all my heart.  As a textile artist I work hard at telling my story through my art.  I know that I’m not a painter, sculptor, or performing artist.  It’s not about a comfort zone, but an acknowledgment of my gifts and talents.  So why am I thinking about doing something different?  I’m not looking to shift the focus of art, but add to my repertoire.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to expand my story telling options.  Aside from my textile art I try to write on this blog Monday thru Friday.  This writing is a practice for me because it allows me to share my thoughts, create an exchange of ideas, and provide resources that may be helpful on your journey to health and healing.  So what’s the problem?  No problem.  I know that I’m a very verbal person.  I like to tell stories and doing it verbally is easy whether it’s to one person or 500 people.  I’ve been looking for other methods of accessing hidden secrets in my soul.

When I was in my dissertation class, one of my classmates is doing a Doctor of Ministry and her dissertation is about the collages she’s created and how they impact her life and her spiritual journey.  I’ve started toying with the idea of creating collages.  It’s an artistic voice, isn’t about artistic talent, and gets me out of my head because it’s nonverbal.  The more we can uncover what lies deeper in our minds and our hearts the greater pool of internal resources we have for health and healing.  It’s not about substituting but adding to my arsenal of self-expression.

How will you access deeper aspects of yourself?  What might emerge when you open yourself up to the possibility of greater self-expression?  How do you utilize this outward expression of your soul on your journey to wellness?  I’d love to know what creative endeavors may capture your intrigue and aid you on your path to getting better or well.  Share your story below or send me an email at greg@survivingstrong.com

Posted in art and healing, creativity and health

One Seam At A Time

Welcome to Art and Healing Wednesday!!

Over the past week I decided to begin sewing a new quilt.  I’ve been working on original art quilts over the past six years, but decided to go back to basics.  I’m working on a 9 patch quilt, a simple pattern.  There are a couple of reasons that I decided upon this pattern.  I wanted something that was focused on the activity and not the outcome.  I wanted to hear the hum of the sewing machine and what I was sewing was secondary to the soothing sound and rhythm of the needle going up and down.  The last reason was a trip down memory lane.

Yesterday while I was sewing I was working to match the seams.  I reflected back on a dear friend who I’ve known for 30 years who started me on my quilting path.  She was a seamstress and for fun she was making 9 patch pillows.  She asked if I wanted to make one and a quilter was born.  As I was sewing yesterday I began to think about all the times I shared with this friend and got a deep sense of peace and gratitude.  I was transported in time and I could feel a physical change in my body and respiration.

It doesn’t matter what creative venture you engage in, but there was a point in time when you started utilizing this creative activity for self-expression.  There was something about this creative endeavor that captured your attention and your imagination providing you with joy and comfort.  You had a time in your life when your creativity needed to take center stage as a means of relaxation and reflection.  If you go back to the beginning I believe you can tap into the cell memory in your body.  Your body’s cells remember wellness, so why wouldn’t you want to tap into that memory on your journey to health and healing?

It’s important to give yourself every opportunity to get better or well.  When you take a moment to begin at the beginning you can see how far you’ve come in your creative journey.  You can look back at the story you’ve been telling for years.  You have the opportunity to see your story in a different form, unadulterated and pure.  This honesty is beneficial to your journey to wellness.

How did you get started in your creative venture?  How has your story changed?  How do you use your art/creativity for health and healing?  I’d love to hear your story…email me at greg@survivingstrong.com

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

Are You a Screenwriter?

Ever watch a television program or movie and wonder how the actors memorize all the lines?  It’s amazing when you think about all the work it takes to put together a script that is well-written and cohesive.  It takes a team of people to write a screenplay that eventually gets produced into the final product you see on the screen.  So what about your life?  Who writes the script of your life?

If you take a step back you’ll see that life is a script and you’re the writer of the script.  The daily events of your life are the factors that influence the script, they are not the script.  It doesn’t matter what happens to you because the events are raw material for the script you’re about to write.  I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently after returning from a four-month work assignment away from home.  I’ve been wondering about my identity and how the events and people I encountered shaped the script I write on a daily basis.  After my doctor appointment last week I, once again, had to think about how this event would be accounted for in my daily script.

It would be easy to abdicate responsibility for our lives, but the only place that leaves us is as a victim.  I’ve played that role as I know many of you have since your diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness, but at some point I made shift because empowerment was part of my treatment plan.  Trust me, I need reminders along the way because it’s truly a slippery slope, so anything that reinforced the fact that I have control in my life and to some extent my body, that’s crucial to living my best life.

What type of script will you be writing today?  How will the events and people you meet today show up in your life script?  I’d love to  know how your script is developed, send me an email 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

Everyone Has An Opinion

Ever notice that following your diagnosis everyone you meet has an opinion about your health and your care?  It’s as all these people overnight attended a crash course in the health field and feel compelled, and more interestingly, qualified to give you an opinion about your health.

There is one up side to this and that is, if the person is sharing information gained through an article read, a news cast, or some other credible source then that’s different from offering an opinion.  In those instances the person is expanding your knowledge base while taking an interest in and showing you that they care about you and your health.

It’s important to weed out those conversations that are opinion based and not fact based.  Making decisions about treatment is difficult enough without the fear factor thrown into the mix.  If you’re going to have a consulting circle of friends and family there are a couple of things to consider; what’s their motivation? and what are their qualifications?  Just because someone themselves has had a health challenge doesn’t make them an expert on anything but their own health challenge.

The first step is to set limits with those that are causing you more harm than good.  It’s your prerogative, your right, and your choice to let others know when and how you’d like their input on your health.  It’s your health so drawing a line in the sand saying only pass on credible information is within your rights as it’s your life and your health.  Don’t let others sabotage your health and healing efforts with scare tactics or what if situations.  If you have any concerns please consult your medical team as they are prepared to answer your questions.  If you feel you need even more information I suggest you ask your primary care physician/internist for a referral to a specialist.

The difficult part is that those offering opinions overwhelmingly are doing it out of love.  Unfortunately, they are unaware of the impact their sharing is having on you as you make difficult decisions about your care.  Information that provides clarity should always be welcomed or information that allows you to go to your next doctor’s appointment with informed questions is a plus.  Communication that places doubt or fear on your radar screen has to be quarantined and eliminated.

Setting limits is difficult and may be difficult at first.  If you have any questions about how or when to set limits feel free to e-mail 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

The Ones We Leave Behind

I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions over the past week.   I just got back from spending over four months in San Antonio, Texas for work and got back to Denver last Tuesday.  It was an interesting four months because I learned new things and met new people.  I had some great experiences and delicious conversations about education, family, and the impact we have on each other’s lives.  When we make any kind of transition you’ll need time for adaptation.  Things aren’t the way they were when you left because you’re different.

If you’re diagnosed with a chronic or other life-altering illness the adaptation is more pronounced.  If you’re a caregiver the adaptation may be that the patient’s abilities for self-care may have changed.  In other instances, someone in your life may have died after a prolonged illness, or maybe it was sudden like Richard Holbrooke, the special envoy to Afghanistan who died today after a severe tear in his aorta. 

It doesn’t matter what the transition is, you’ll notice a change.  Think about the people who you may have met in a support group.  For some, there comes a time when they leave the group as they either graduate to other groups; like a post-treatment group, or they decide that their time and energy is better spent somewhere else.  What’s left?  The memories of the time you spent with that person or the experiences you shared with that person.  Think about who made you feel welcome the first time you went to a support group.  That’s what I think about when I think about my time in San Antonio, those people who made me feel welcome.

Adaptation is never easy, we don’t like change and the truth is that people are not inter-changeable.  The people we meet along the way add something special to our lives.  They make us think or challenge our beliefs in a way that we are willing to expand our horizons.  People are how we get through the day whether you go to a new city for a few months, or you’ve been diagnosed with an illness and other’s share their story and their strength with you.

We don’t really ever leave anyone behind because there will always be reminders of your connection along the way.  There will be those moments when those who have left their mark on your heart emerge reminding you that the experience, the need to adapt has made you a stronger person and that’s a positive step on your journey to wellness.

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

Doing or Thinking About Doing

Ever get a challenge that you question its intent or the benefit?  There’s a lot of that going around and it’s a difficult dilemma to take on because it can really screw up your day.  Being diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness is enough to screw up your day so why add to the pressure.  There’s something very important about how you take on your health challenge and how you outline your trip on your journey to wellness.

The truth is that “I did” beats “I will” any day of the week.  Oddly enough that quote came from a cigarette advertisement and it boggles my mind how they came up with something so inspirational and challenging.  What’s on your list of things to accomplish to achieve greater wellness?  How are you shifting from the idea of healing to actually take actions to achieve healing.  Health and healing is not an abstract concept.  We can measure health and healing on the physical and emotional levels.  We have anecdotal information about spiritual health and healing so action trumps the idea of acting.

You have a lot of choices when facing a health challenge.  You can think about your illness theoretically and keep all the health and healing secrets in your head with the hope that it will translate into action.  On the other hand, you can take what you know and believe about your beliefs related to health and healing and find ways to make them into real actions so that you can experience the power of the mind-body connection.

Think about telling someone you know and love about your hopes and dreams for health; what are they hoping to hear?  They’re hoping that you are taking your diagnosis seriously, and more importantly that you’re doing everything possible to achieve wellness.  It means they are waiting to hear about your ideas and how they’ve been translated into actions.  The “I will” concept makes you less than credible.  After a while people think you’re a future tripper but don’t carry through on your plans.  Your health and healing journey becomes lip service and in the long run you won’t achieve the level of health and healing you deserve.

Think about what you’d like to tackle and by this time next week be able to say “I Did” instead of everyone sitting around waiting for you to say “I Will”.

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.