Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Doctor's Visits, Empowerment, Healthcare, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness, newly diagnosed illness

Still on the Journey…With Renewed Passion

I’ve been working in the healthcare field for over thirty years.  I’m a mental health provider, focused on the impact illness has on our physical, emotional, and spiritual lives.  When I started this blog, my intention was to share my insights and experiences as both a provider and a patient.  If you’ve read any of my blog posts or gone to my website (www.gregkatz.com), you know I’ve had an autoimmune disease most of my life.  In addition, I’ve nursed many animals with varying degrees of illness and written about their journey.

Over the past eighteen months, I’ve been enrolled and graduated with a graduate certificate in Health Humanities and Ethics.  It has opened my eyes to many unanswered questions for both patients and providers about their experiences in healthcare.  My classmates came from all healthcare arenas.  Our discussions punctuated the challenges of working in healthcare because of finances, policy, research, insurance, access, and a host of other dilemmas.  It has expanded my understanding of healthcare and made me a more informed and sensitive provider.

As I relaunch this blog, I wanted to share the direction I’m headed.  This year I’ll write about my experiences personal and professional.  I’ll explore how we can address doctor/patient relationships for optimal health.  I’ll share reviews of books related to both patient experiences and those of healthcare providers (educationally and in practice).  One of the key areas I’ll address this year is the concept of “legacy”. What are we leaving behind?  How will we be remembered?  What are we doing to improve our own situations and those of others?

I’m excited to explore these topics.  I’ll be sharing interviews with individuals showcasing personal experiences of illness as well as the handcuffs felt by many providers as they try and reconcile the realities of medicine with their intention for entering the field.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey and participate in the conversation.  Your voice is important because it’s about what we have in common, not what divides us (sound familiar).  I want all voices to be heard around the table because this is how we can advocate for what’s needed, what’s right, and what heals!

If you’d like to share your story (patient or provider), please email me at greg@gregkatz.com!

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Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, overcoming adversity

We’re All The Same But Different

We all have the same needs to survive, at least according to Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. The base of the needs pyramid are our physical needs such as food, clothing and shelter. Moving up the pyramid we are met by the need for safety, a need to belong, self-esteem, and finally self-actualization. The amazing thing about the pyramid of needs is that we all have the same destination, but how we scale the pyramid is different. If you’re wondering what I mean, let me take you on a little trip.

Imagine you are venturing out to your favorite bookstore. If you’re like me you head for one section as your first destination. Odds are that you routinely head for that genre of books because it’s in your wheelhouse. It’s your place of comfort, interest, even solace. Our interests guide our journey. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking at books on nature, art, automobiles, or science; each discipline has unique qualities that speak to you. Since a different person writes every book you are exposed to varying points of view within your chosen genre.

Now let’s take a trip further down the road. Move from your favorite book section to the magazine racks. Usually bookstores categorize their magazine selections. Survey the magazines and see what speaks to you. Once you’ve chosen a magazine look at other magazines that are similar. You’ll notice that there is a plethora of magazines on your chosen topic. Each magazine attracts a unique set of authors writing toward a unique audience.

Publishers count on their being a diverse population who buy their magazines, books, and other media. Because we’re all the same, the need to seek, but different because we have different tastes and motivations there are similar but different resources. Why am I belaboring this point? You need to find what you connect to when seeking ways to overcome adversity. There are voices that are easier for you to hear, read, and explore. Finding the voices that speak to you will provide you with the most bang for your buck both literally and figuratively.

I’ll give you an example. I’m obsessed with stories and storytelling. I’m not talking about the “Once upon a time” stories, but people’s life stories. My dissertation focused on the narratives of artists with chronic and life-threatening illness. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised when, on this weeks bookstore visit, I found a magazine titled Creative Nonfiction. The focus of the magazine is “telling stories that matter”. Amazingly, there is an article on narrative medicine, a topic near and dear to my heart. There is something for everyone!!!!

When you find the voices that resonate for you, it’s amazing how powerful the information, resources, and inspiration will hit home. They will give you nourishment as you move forward on your pilgrimage to health and healing. Seek out the authors and speakers that draw you to their message. When you can isolate those unique tidbits that make them so appealing you can go out and find more resources that will give you a springboard for other healing resources.

Been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Seeking education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Wondering how art inspires healing?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

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

Where The Real World Intercepts Our Health

You know all about how to take care of yourself during cold and flu season.  If you’re a candidate for it you get the flu shot.  You have been instructed thousands of times about washing your hands, using hand sanitizer, and when you cough do so into the crux of your elbow.  We know that certain illness can be prevented by vaccine (some debate about childhood vaccines, so please consult your doctor if you have any questions).  We know that sharing telephones, computer keyboards, and obviously touching door handles etc spread germs, but these are all things we can rationalize and take steps to prevent ourselves from getting sick.  What happens when the circumstances in life create an incubator for illness?

I’m reading Lewis Mehl-Madrona’s book, Narrative Medicine.  I’ve read a few of his books and I’m in awe of his wisdom and perspective on the world and life.  I was buzzing along reading and read the following information that stopped me in my tracks.  Mehl-Madrona reports, “Harvey Brenner’s large-scale studies from 1973 on the effects of unemployment in America showed that a 1 percent rise in unemployment was followed by 6 percent more first admissions to psychiatric hospitals, a 4 percent rise in suicides, a 4 percent increase in admissions to state prisons, and 6 percent more homicides.”  Even as I type this I’m in shock. 

We know that the mind-body connection is strong, so what happens to our physical health in times of greater unemployment?  Depression weakens the immune system and allows what my be below rise to the surface in a physical, emotional, and spiritual manner.  If you aren’t health challenged you become compromised.  If you are health challenged, then doesn’t a real life circumstance like unemployment, and the current state of our economy impact your journey to wellness?

Unemployment is just one issue being discussed here, but we encounter devastating life events all the time?  How will you fortify your physical, emotional, and spiritual health?  What support systems do you have in place so that you can build your internal resources?  I can tell you how this has impacted me in the past few months.  I needed to leave my home in Colorado for a job in San Antonio, TX.  I’d been working out of the house for years and took care of the running of the household while my partner worked outside the home.  When I left to take this job, all the responsibility of running the household fell on his shoulders.  I can tell you by the grace of God, my neighbors have been incredible.  They have helped him in numerous ways and in addition, have been a surrogate family for him while I’ve been gone.  He has strong relationships with these people and they have meals together, sit on the porch and have coffee in the mornings, and invite him over to watch the football game.

This type of social support helps to balance the stress and emotional fallout of suddenly finding himself alone for four months.  It’s been an adjustment, but he’s a trooper and he’s continuously engaging with others to keep his morale up, his ties to the community strong, while at the same time giving himself time to read or engage in other nurturing activities.

We can’t plan for every real world event, but we can begin working on building our resources and depositing in our physical, emotional, and spiritual banks for a rainy day…the day when we may need to make a withdrawal from those accounts to keep forging our way to health and healing.

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

The Right Words at the Right Time

Ever hear a story that makes you say to yourself, “boy did that story come at the right time?”  That’s why story is so powerful, because it’s a universal way of communicating deep thoughts.  They help us navigate the difficult times and celebrate the good times.  Our stories, especially the ones that we retell show what is important in our lives because we want to share our personal revelations.

This morning I was watching a rerun of The West Wing  and the following story was told.

     A guy falls in a hole with very steep walls and can’t get out.  A doctor passes by and the person yells, “Hey doc can you help me?”  The doctor writes a prescription and throws it down in the hole.  A little while later a minister walks by and once again the guy in the hole yells, “Reverend, can you help me get out of here?”  The minister writes a prayer and throws it down in the hole.  A little while later a friend walks by and the guy yells, “Hey Joe, can you help me get out of here?”  Joe jumps down into the hole .  The guy says to him, “why would you do that now we’re both stuck in the hole.”  Joe replies, “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know how to get out!”

That story is important because it punctuates a couple of points.  We can’t get by in life without support.  Even more importantly, finding those who have walked a mile in your shoes, maybe even are a bit ahead of you on the journey to wellness could be a true life saver. 

This story is important because I’ve learned both personally and professionally that accruing information shared by others about how to live a full life with a chronic or life-altering illness is crucial to our sanity.  The lessons learned about how to deal with the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of a health challenge can save you a lot of suffering.  Having someone who will serve as a Sherpa through this steep learning curve will allow you the freedom to focus on healing instead of fighting against an entity you can’t see.  It’s an uneven playing field and that’s why you need the support of others.

Having a trusted person who understands your struggles, knows where the potholes are, and knows the resources to alleviating the strife can ease the pain experienced on all levels and free you to concentrate on one thing, getting better.  As I’ve shared before, not everyone will be cured, but everyone can experience healing.  I’ve been honored to accompany thousands of people on their journey to wellness over the past twenty-four years. 

If I can provide you with any further information check out the website, http://www.survivingstrong.com or call me, Greg Katz, at 720-851-6736.

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

Your Life On The Big Screen

The first Monday of the month I attend an artist talk in downtown Denver.  Last night the artist being featured wasn’t the actual artist, but the creators of a Denver Film Festival.  “Festivus” is in its fourth year as a local film festival with 300 films submitted from 25 countries.  Why am I talking to you about a film festival?  Because I want you to ask yourself a couple of questions.  “If my life were a film what genre would it fall in?” and “Who would play me in the film?”.

Your life is the greatest epic ever told and as you crossed the threshold from “healthy” to “health challenged” you’ve set up a story line filled with uncertainty, intrigue, and action.  Whether you believed it about yourself prior to your diagnosis; you’ve become a hero.  You take on the villain (your illness) and try to bring it from the dark side to the light.  You work tirelessly for justice and to live the life everyone deserves.

Now I’m not saying that James Cameron is going to spend $400 million dollars shooting your story, but he doesn’t have to because you’re the star, director, and producer.  You bring more life to the story than any screenwriter would dare.  The amazing thing is that I’m not even talking about your life as a documentary, although that may be the chosen genre for some.  It could be animation, romantic comedy, or an action film.  It’s all about perspective and it’s your perspective that counts.

This isn’t about working toward an Academy Award nomination.  It is about how your frame your story based on what you believe is important.  As the creator you get to drive the story line, so what’s it going to be?  Is it going to be a comedy or tragedy?  Is it going to be a documentary or fantasy?  It doesn’t matter because your essence runs throughout the story line and that’s what you connect to and so will others.  This is why support groups encourage people to tell their stories and to tell them over and over, because the story is powerful.