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Posts Tagged ‘holistic health’

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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It has been almost five months since I last wrote, but I’m back to share my experiences, thoughts, and questions I’ve developed over that period of time.  The last 6 months of 2012 was spent completing my doctoral dissertation, and the first five months of this year I have been in rural western Tennessee for work.

I had the enormous pleasure and honor of interviewing artists with chronic and life-threatening illnesses for my dissertation.  I completed my dissertation the end of July and successfully defended my dissertation the end of March.  I have to share that being called Doctor is a bit surreal, but still pretty cool.  It has been a long journey, six years to complete this accomplishment.

What have I learned from the dissertation journey?  I learned that when you are totally engaged in a process the time flies.  I learned that being of service to others is a blessing.  I learned that it’s never to late to begin a journey that fills your soul.  The completion of the dissertation was a huge accomplishment.  However, the oral defense was a spiritual experience.  Having three examiners share some special time, ask provoking questions, and request that I delve deeper into the subject I spent over two years exploring was uplifting, exhilarating, and terrifying.

The last part of the dissertation process took place while I was working in rural western Tennessee.  I spent over four months in a farming community.  It was a close-knit community and somewhat isolated from things I take for granted like cultural centers and a bookstore.  However, I did learn about living in community, knowing everything about most of the people in a town, and how to thrive in a new environment.

I’m back at home and getting ready to travel to San Francisco for graduation.  This will be the culmination of my educational career (at least I say that for right now).  I’ll spend some time with my friends who took the dissertation journey with me and also received their PhD.  I’ll be honored by the faculty for this glorious accomplishment, and celebrate the result of perseverance, tenacity, and love of a subject.

Where will I go from here?  I want to begin sharing my background in art and healing.  I’d love to come to a state, city, town near you and share the impact of your personal narrative on how you share your autobiography and its impact on meaning making.  We all have a story that needs to be shared.  Our culture requires that we share our stories so that we create a cosmic gestalt.

I look forward to sharing this next part of my journey.  I hope you’ll join me!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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