Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Having a Voice in Healthcare, living with chronic illness, overcoming adversity

I Wish My Vet Saw People

If you follow me on Twitter (@GregKatz2), Facebook, or on these posts you know I have a black lab named Tashi that was diagnosed with MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) about seven years ago. Half her life has been spent visiting doctors, taking a host of medications, and having numerous tests where she’s been poked and prodded to get cultures. Throughout this process she has endured pain and discomfort, never giving up her loving nature.


After fighting her most recent infection for the better part of a year, I’ve had the chance to be grateful for her doctor (Dr. B). He’s dedicated to her well-being. He took her case and as a result changed the infection control policies at the Veterinary Hospital. Most of all, I’ve watched him spend time with Tashi, never giving up on her and always trying to make her as comfortable as possible. What could he teach medical students who will eventually be treating us in doctor’s offices and hospitals?

Meet the patient where they are. I’m fortunate because I feel as if I’ve become partners with my medical providers. I always ask questions and I’m aware of the latest research on my own conditions. There is no power play in the exam room. Our vet is very sensitive to the power dynamic and when he examines Tashi he sits on the floor so he can see her eye-to-eye. He will often bow his head so that she knows that he doesn’t have to be dominant, in theory. He’s also the keeper of the treats, always a way to endear himself to her.

Follow-up is very important to the health and healing process. I feel like I’ve attracted patient positive doctors. They’ve been concerned and their follow-up has been extraordinary. One of my doctors had ordered some lab work and I didn’t do it within a timely manner. I received a phone call from him saying he hadn’t seen the results come across his desk and wanted to make sure I had gone for the lab tests. I felt like he was definitely looking out for me. Dr. B goes above and beyond the call of duty. After Tashi has an office visit, the phone rings about 8pm a couple of days later (after the vet office closes), the doctor checking to see if she’s making progress. Wouldn’t you like a follow-up call from your doctor to see if you’re making progress?

Dr. B always dialogues about side-effects and outcome strategies. He’s clear about what I’m willing and unwilling to do for treatment. Some of the medications Tashi has been on have had such horrible side-effects that they have been removed from the repertoire of possible treatment strategies. Minimizing suffering while seeking treatments that work is paramount to us working as a team. Dr. B doesn’t make it a “my way or the highway” session.

What can you take away from my experience with a vet that treats Tashi as if she were a person? Never allow your doctor to talk down to you. Be clear that you may not have gone to medical school, but it’s your body, your health, and your journey. Let the doctor know what’s important to you regarding the relationship. I always share with the doctor my professional background in healthcare so he knows from the start I’m going to be very involved (sometimes too involved when I begin to self-diagnosis. Read my post on anchor bias).

Select a doctor that makes you feel like you’re a priority. Unfortunately I spent five months taking Tashi to the vet a minimum of three times a week for treatment so I had a lot of time to ask questions and discuss her progress. Stay in contact with your doctor so he has up-to-date knowledge of how you’re doing. Many healthcare systems have email for their staff; use it! Don’t be afraid to ask questions in between appointments.

Lastly, find a doctor who has a strong commitment to compassion. Dr. B has always treated Tashi as if she were his own. He has done amazing amounts of research on her condition and is always looking for the latest and greatest treatments for her condition. I wish he saw humans because I’d be his first patient!

Looking to explore how to select a physician that is willing to partner with you?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration when facing a health challenge?  Visit

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

Hanging On For Hope

The diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness brings anxiety. It throws the individual and their family into a world of the unknown. It pokes and prods us to become vigilant in our search for hope. The hope is that there will be a treatment protocol that will cure or at least alleviate suffering. As I’ve discussed in the past, there is a difference between getting better and getting well. Cure is the hope, but it’s not always possible. So what is possible?

I’m always on the lookout for news about new treatments. I feel like an information and referral resource for friends and family. It’s a role I enjoy. I’m honored that people in my life trust me enough to share their experiences. My ears and eyes are always open for some information that I can pass on to ease the illness experience.

How vigilant am I in my search for hope and healing? I was watching Jeopardy last night and across the bottom of the screen there was message that said, “FDA approves new medication for MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). That sent me directly to the computer to see what the news flash was about. If you’ve been reading my posts you know my dog has been living with MRSA for the past 6+ years. I need hope.

Our lives have revolved around a cycle of diagnosis and treatment. After a while you feel like a hamster on a hamster wheel. The cycle is repetitive and each time a culture gets sent to the lab we hope and pray that there will be some medication that will tame the infection. As you know if you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness, there’s no guarantee that treatments will work forever. We hope that someone in research and development will bring forth a new strategy while we still have time.

Hope also requires that we invite others into our lives. We can’t be everywhere and know all. Inviting others into your life, like others have invited me, giving you a personal research team always on the lookout for an interview, news article, or like yesterday, a message crossing the television screen.

Hope isn’t only about faith. There’s a practical side to hope based on technology, research, and organizations that lobby for money to bring forth new treatments. Whether the future holds a space for you where you get well or get better, remember that hope is a strategy. It needs to be part of your treatment regimen!

Diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness and looking for support, education, and inspiration?  Visit

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

Helplessness…Uncomfortable to the Core

If you’ve read some of my past posts you know that I have a black lab mix named Tashi. She’s thirteen plus and has been fighting MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) for seven years. The past ten months have been one infection after another. The bacteria are sneaky, mutating every six to eight weeks requiring a new culture and new meds. She’s been so patient! In addition to medication, she gets a laser treatment on her foot every other day. It’s a great experience for her because the treatment is painless and she gets lots of treats from the entire staff at the vet.

So why am I feeling helpless in this moment? This past weekend she developed conjunctivitis. She had a discharge that was making her continually rub her eyes. We took her to the vet and he prescribed medication. Yesterday I woke up and noticed that instead of progress, her eyes looked worse. They were so bad that she could hardly keep her eyes open.

Her regular doctor was off yesterday so she got to meet a new vet (new for her). The doctor was kind and considerate. She knew about Tashi’s history because she’s been teaching the entire staff about MRSA and all the troubles that come with this diagnosis. New meds, eye drops to soothe the itch, and lots of love will hopefully make the difference.

Helpless because I can’t make her feel any better. She can’t rub her eyes so she has to wear a cone (the famous radar dish) so she won’t irritate her eyes. I’m putting ointments and drops in her eyes every couple of hours. I feel helpless because in trying to make her feel better I have to do everything in my power to prevent her from irritating her eyes even further. I feel helpless because being so vigilant with the MRSA that a different infection leaves me feeling defeated.

I feel helpless because I can’t explain what’s going on to her, and all she can do is trust that I’m going to help. Helplessness is very uncomfortable. A different kind of uncomfortable than the itch and pain she’s experiencing because it’s my soul is uncomfortable. This type of experience teaches me that I can only do what’s humanly possible.   I can only be compassionate and proactive about her medical condition, but I don’t have the power to heal her. Uncomfortable because it shows that I have limitations and surrender is my only option.

Our story continues. She’s a happy girl, although uncomfortable in this moment. She’s full of love. She holds spaces of trust and love in her heart (so maybe I’m projecting a bit). We’re a team! There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do to ease her pain and discomfort. There isn’t anything I would do that would jeopardize her quality of life. There is only one thing I do have power over, ensuring that she leaves it all on the table, living a life that’s full of love, fun, and connection.

Diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit

Exploring how Art impacts Healing?  Visit