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Posts Tagged ‘health blogger’

We are in a constant state of comparison.  There is a cultural initiation to living a life comparing one thing to another, and one person to another.  Think about some of the issues society is having with the portrayal of the “ideal” woman/girl as shown in magazines.  It hasn’t been until recently that women are taking a stand to rectify the long-term damage as a result of these unattainable/unhealthy models.

We’re all so unique and yet we’ve been indoctrinated into a culture of comparison.  I just finished my doctorate (yes I’m proud), but I had months of doubt when classmates who started with me finished a year before me.  I began to question my intentions, my drive, and my intelligence.  Fortunately I had a dissertation adviser who was loving, supportive, and compassionate.  She reinforced the importance of everything in its own time and you can rush creative endeavors.   She made it clear that I was the midwife to a piece of work that will be a part of me forever.

What drives us to compare ourselves to others?  How is it possible that we’re creative and yet we adopt a common yardstick to which very few if any will attain success?  It happens in all arenas, even in the illness community.  People compare their diagnosis, prognosis, and response to treatment, as if that’s not a catastrophe waiting to happen.

I was watching Good Morning America, and they spoke about a sound-man that lost his battle to cancer.  Robin Roberts shared that he had the same transplant she did at about the same time and unfortunately his was not a success.  Would we deem him a failure?  Was his body not up to par?

When it comes to illness there are protocols that are based on numbers.  When researchers try out new drugs it’s a numbers game.  Protocols are created based on the greatest number of people responding to a drug, suggesting success.  It would be great if that insured a happy healthy ending, but it’s not that simple because the human body is an undetermined variable.

Let’s abandon comparison!  As I write that I chuckle because for many I might as well have told you to abandon breathing.  It’s time to break the confines of our lives of comparison and allow our bodies and spirits to follow a course that fits our calling and destiny.  It’s time to release ourselves from the pressures of measuring up to unrealistic expectations.

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I’ve been watching Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, watching some amazing interviews.  Watching these interviews begins to engage my inquisitive mind and I begin to think about our relationship to others and ourselves.  We’re complex beings and we all have gifts and talents that allow us to live successful lives, and contribute to the Universe.

I guess the big question that comes up is, “How conditional is your relationship to your gifts and talents?”  I ask that question because for many of us have to squelch our gifts and talents to make it day-to-day in our jobs and everyday life.  We engage our gifts and talents when we have “free time” or in times of crisis.  Is that any way to treat your gifts and talents?

Which of your gifts and/or talents would you like to explore further?  What benefits do you derive when you engage in activities that utilize your gifts and talents?  Do you find that when you engage your gifts and talents there is a positive impact on your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being?

Illness is just one of the many transitions we may experience in life.  During these times of transitions, obviously filled with stress and anxiety, there is a need to utilize all the resources, inner and outer, that are available to you.  Your gifts and talents don’t only have to be a well you go to when you’re thirsty.  Your gifts and talents can be a mainstay of your physical, emotional, and spiritual life.  They can be the nourishment you need to survive and thrive.

These are troubling times, even without an illness.  However, a diagnosis obviously complicates matters.  I’m amazed each and every time I engage someone in a conversation and they share their gifts and talents.  They’re face lights up so bright that it’s like looking into an eclipse; it’s blinding.  This is the exuberance that allows us to create a healing environment within our bodies, and in our interactions with others.

What gifts and or talents will you summon today and how will you infuse your day with possibility?

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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!

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Energy makes the world go round.  It’s something that is palpable and drives us to move forward in our lives.  Every system needs energy.  Every organization needs energy.  I had an experience last night that made me think about how organizational energy translates to personal energy, and in turn health and healing.

I attended a meeting of the art guild that I belong to, a textile arts guild.  The organization has about 275 members and has been in existence for twenty-four years.  Like many organizations there is an old guard, those who founded the organization or have been members for over twenty years.  These were the original leaders of the group and shaped the path of the organization.

I had been the President of the organization for two years and during that time I was always conscious about not only the energy at the meeting, but how to keep the energy level high and people engaged between meetings.  My monthly President’s message in the newsletter were meant to get members thinking, not only about the organization, but their role in the organization, and where they fit in the great world of art.

Last night I attended the meeting after a five-month hiatus (I’d been working in Tennessee).  The meeting was “fine”.  I don’t believe that “fine” is a compliment.  It’s just a comment on the meeting moving along.  Even the speaker was less than dynamic.  I was hoping to get re-energized after the five-month hiatus.  The only thing I was energized by were the moments when I reconnected with friends I hadn’t seen in a long time.

So how does that translate to your own health and healing?  What do you get excited about?  What keeps you engaged in your life and your healing journey?  How do you generate excitement for yourself to keep learning, continue experimenting, and design a life that will leave you with no regrets at the end of your life?

Energy is palpable.  It’s a force that is in you and around you.  Energy is what the body needs to heal.  Energy allows you to be tenacious in your healing journey.  It’s the momentum we need to tackle the challenges faced with any health challenge.

How do you experience energy in you and around you?  What happens when your energy level is less than optimal?  Are you sensitive to energy levels in others, even in groups and organizations?  How will you check your energy gauge and keep it above empty?

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You’re going to think I’m a bit strange because the story I’m going to share is about my dog.  Believe it or not, my dog Tashi has had more medical problems than most of us will have in our own human lives.

It all started about five or six years ago when she acquired Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).  I don’t know how she acquired this infection, but it has been recurring relentlessly over the years.  Unfortunately MRSA isn’t curable, it becomes a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition.

The incident this past week started last Wednesday when Tashi awoke limping.  Her back foot (location of the MRSA wound) was swollen.  She ate breakfast and took her place in the family room and didn’t move for seven hours.  We decided to take her to the emergency vet that evening because she wasn’t engaging in normal activities and she couldn’t get up off the floor on her own.

The vet we saw, a young vet, was quite personable and very good with Tashi.  He did a thorough exam and was respectful of her pain limits.  The thing that caught my attention was his personal shock at how swollen her foot and leg had become.  He was perplexed hoping that maybe she had an issue with a bone or joint.  Because of the MRSA he had to be very careful about any biopsy or culture because he didn’t want to spread the MRSA if in fact it was present.

The radiograph didn’t show any abnormalities, a huge relief.  He did perform a culture of the wound on her foot, non-invasive.  He also prescribed a very strong antibiotic and pain medication.  We took her home with the hope that  she would begin the healing process.

Unfortunately as Thursday progressed, her leg became more swollen and this was worrisome.  The next step was to take her to her regular vet.  One more appointment and when he saw her foot he was also a bit perplexed and concerned.  She wasn’t putting pressure on her foot and the leg was swollen up to her hip.  He prescribed a second antibiotic and now we wait for the culture results.

The sad part is that animals can’t tell us other than behavior about their physical problems.  I feel fortunate to have medical professionals that are engaged in her well-being and take measures to create increased odds at healing the infection.  I didn’t know that the field of veterinary medicine doesn’t have a specialization in infectious disease.  The specialty seems to be on the horizon, but until that happens either a general practitioner, or in Tashi’s case her dermatologist/allergy doctor have to serve as our medical resource.

How does this translate into the experience of humans?  We don’t always have an answer for symptoms that arise from an illness.  It’s important to feel comfortable going to a specialist if you don’t feel that your illness/symptoms are getting better.  In addition, I felt it important for her regular physician to see her because he knows her history and her body.  He understands her response to past medications and infections.  He knows her temperament and tuned into her response when he exams her.  These are important because her history may have clues to heal the current medical dilemma.

Things are still uncertain and the fact that she’s over twelve years old doesn’t soothe my anxiety.  I can see the desire in her eyes to get better (my personal projection) but I’m hoping we make it through this health crisis.  I hope you maintain that fire in your soul to get better or well.

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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?

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I received a very sad email this morning.  Visual Aid, a San Francisco nonprofit, is closing its doors at the end of the month.  Visual Aid’s mission is to provide resources to artists with life-threatening illness to continue creating works of art.  They provide financial assistance, an art supply bank, entrepreneurial workshops, and exhibition opportunities in their gallery.

I found out about Visual Aid almost 3 years ago when I began doing research for my dissertation, “Artists and Illness: Narrative and Its Impact on Autobiography and Meaning Making”.  The Executive Director, Julie Blankenship, a true arts community leader, assisted me in finding and scheduling artists to interview for my research.  This is the love and care that Julie has offered the Visual Aid community for the past eleven years.

This organization has served as a place for artists with life-threatening illness to make connections aiding in eliminating the isolation often felt by both artists and those with an illness.  They have served to gain exposure for artists who may not have the resources to buy art supplies or promote their work because they have limited connections in the art community.

Why has this organization been so important?  They have given voice to a community that holds a story we don’t often hear.  Visual Aid artists tell their pathography (stories of their life and illness journey) that we usually only read about in books.  I came to see clearly that artists wouldn’t write their pathography, but they certainly create works of art sharing that journey.  I was and still am deeply moved by the artists’ works of art, their story, and their generosity to share these personal moments in their lives.

So who will fill the gap?  Illness isn’t going away!  Artists with illness aren’t disappearing from the planet, although eradicating illness would be phenomenal.  Who will be the guardian angel for these artists with life-threatening illnesses?  These stories need to continue because they are a part of our social fabric.  The provide insight into the disease and healing process.  They share experiences of the social aspects of illness that can only be told through art.

Without an organization like Visual Aid we may potentially lose part of our cultural story.  Even though the stories of individual’s illnesses will continue, without the artists’ stories, it will be incomplete.

As we say goodbye to Visual Aid, I hope you’ll consider ways to continue promoting the stories of artists’ with illness.  We need to have the complete story of healing and/or coping with illness, not just the written word!!!

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