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

Is Your Life A Page Turner?

If you’ve read any of my more than 700 posts you know that I’m all about the story.  I believe it’s our stories that allow us to connect to people and help us heal.  Think about the importance of someone bearing witness to your life, and how that witness becomes part of your story.  I’ve sat in numerous support group, therapy group, and story telling sessions and the one thing in common is how mesmerizing our stories are, and how they shape not only our own lives but the lives of others.  So is your life a page turner?

I like to look at the Sunday New York Times (online) because the book section lists all the newest books and has a review of each.  I’ve gotten some amazing recommendations and each one was a page turner.  There are stories all around us that captivate us like the people who saved a family from a car that went over an embankment into a river, or the story of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords amazing and ongoing recovery from being shot at point-blank range in the head.  We tell these stories because we connect to them in some way.  We want to connect with the heroes around us, or be inspired by those who make an amazing recovery, especially if you’re facing the diagnosis of a chronic or life-altering illness.  We need these stories because they feed us and give us the nourishment our mind and souls need to continue telling our own story.

Your story doesn’t have to be a bestseller to be impactful.  You don’t have to be a national hero or a guru with thousands of followers for your story to be impactful.  Your story has to be real.  Your story has to be told from the heart.  Your story can’t be like a sitcom in syndication that we see as reruns over and over again because people get tired of those stories and move on.  Your story has to be evolving because we as humans are constantly evolving.  If you’re living your life with the philosophy of  (pardon my expression), “Same Crap, Different Day”; then you’re stagnating and that may be killing you more than any health challenge possibly can.

Your story is important and I’d love to hear it, read it, help you live it!  Feel free to tell your story in the comment section, or as always you can email me at greg@survivingstrong.com …. That’s all Folks!

Posted in coping with chronic illness

Newbies Could Save Your Life

Is it really possible for an intern to save your life?  I have lots of friends who are physicians and the joke was,  never go to a teaching hospital on July 1st because the day before the interns were all medical students.  Whenever you’re doing something new there’s a learning curve, but we take special notice when a new doctor is involved in our case.  It’s understandable because we go to a doctor that has years of experience and then the intern comes in and your anxiety level goes up and you wonder, “Is it okay for this young, inexperienced physician to be in on my surgery?”

According to an article in the New York Times (online) this week, having an intern in on the surgery won’t kill you.  In fact, the articles states that mortality rates are lower in surgeries where an intern/resident is part of the surgical team.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a free and clear situation.  The article also went on to say that surgeries where an intern/resident is present takes longer and there may be higher rates for infection, but mortality rates are lower.  Why might that be?

I’ve been thinking about it and I can come up with a couple of assumptions.  When there’s an intern the surgery takes longer simply because the intern/resident hasn’t done the procedure as many times as the physician.  Of course they’re nervous and are going at a slower pace so as not to make any mistakes.  In addition, they are probably asking questions of the attending physician slowing down the pace a bit, but this is a teaching moment for the intern/resident so that should be expected.  As far as infection rates being higher, that’s most likely just the new doctors learning better infection control procedures…that one is addressed immediately.

So why do you think that mortality rates are lower when an intern/resident is present for the surgery?  I believe it’s because they have as the Buddhists say, “A Beginner’s Mind”.  They aren’t anticipating the next step and therefore they are focused on the here and now.  They are asking questions and may see things the attending physician, who may have done this surgery hundreds of times, simply overlooks because they are anticipating the next step.  The intern/resident brings the pace down so if there are complications they can be addressed during the surgery, not in the recovery room.

Having a fresh pair of eyes present can mean the difference between life and death…yours.  So don’t worry if an intern/resident is part of the surgical team.  In fact, encourage them to ask lots of questions, even if it seems insignificant because that’s how they learn and that’s how you’ll avoid post-surgical complications.  A Beginner’s Mind is good not only as a spiritual practice, but as a work ethic because it keeps you fresh, unassuming, and more inquisitive.  The questions could be the answer to your life and death issues.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, Healthcare, living with chronic illness

Chronic Can Be Costly

In the old days, before your diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness, when you got sick you may have gone to the doctor, paid for an office visit and lo and behold you got well.  There weren’t repeated trips and co-pays for office visits.  There weren’t endless tests or supplies needed, maybe a bottle of Tylenol.  The cost was minimal financially, and the cost emotionally and spiritually was minimal too.

Then you were given a diagnosis by the doctor and everything changed.  You began to see your doctor more than you see some of your friends or family.  Your new inner circle consists of lab technicians, insurance personnel, and your medical team.  Chronic illness is expensive.  Let’s take Type 2 Diabetes as an example.  It not only about the costs associated with a change in diet, but the meter, the lancets, the test strips, and the follow-up lab work with the doctor.  There is no end to the costs and for many this becomes a financial and thus an emotional burden.

This week the New York Times Online ran an article about the cost of Type 2 Diabetes.  They state, “Already, this incurable and often debilitating illness costs the country’s health care system a staggering $174 billion a year.”  They go on to say that because of the personal cost of managing the disease only about 25% of Type 2 Diabetes patients are getting the care they need.  Don’t you think that’s shameful?  Doesn’t the healthcare system and the powers that be understand that by not taking care of those with Type 2 Diabetes you end up taking care of patients with heart, kidney, and circulation problems.  Does paying for test strips and meters costs less than having to hospitalize someone to amputate a limb?

The New York Times cites Consumer Reports Health in a report they produced stating that, “diabetes patients spend an average of $6,000 annually for treatment of their disease.”  When you think of the cost, understand that these are net dollars.  As a “civilized” society can we continue to look the other way and not treat those who need our help.  Yes, there needs to be a partnerships and Type 2 Diabetes patients need to do their part (just as my mother is doing) by eating properly and getting enough exercise.  It has to be a partnership, but a true partnership, not one in name only.

If you have  a chronic illness what has the cost been to you?  I’m not only talking about the financial cost, but the emotional and spiritual as well.  Let your voice be heard!

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

If Esther Tuttle Said It…It Must Be True

One of the things I love about technology is the ability to read newspapers from other parts of the country.  I enjoy the writing at the New York Times, www.nytimes.com, and find lots of interesting tidbits that peak my curiosity.  When I was looking at the health section I came across this story about a woman, Esther Tuttle, who will be celebrating her 100th birthday next summer.  If you look at longevity rates over the past 100 years you’ll see how we’re living long, and unfortunately for many that means seeing an increase in the number of chronic or other life-altering illnesses.

The article was written by Jane E. Brody, and it looked at the factors that Ms. Tuttle believed to boost her years of healthy living.  It really came down to the 3R’s…Resolution, Resourcefulness, and Resilience.  Let me tell you why I find these three qualities great if you’re not sick, but even more important if you’re facing a health challenge.

Resolution is a state of mind.  It’s a decision and as I’ve said in the past, “Your decisions dictate your actions”.  In this case, Ms. Tuttle resolved to live a long, healthy, and active life.  In order to do that she eats a modest diet, still gets plenty of exercise, and is connected socially to friends and a large family including a great-great grandchild.  It’s a decision, a conscious decision, to take actions that will fortify your life.  If you’re facing a chronic or other illness, making a resolution that you’ll get better (remember we don’t all get well) is paramount and will guide your actions to make that happen. 

Resourcefulness is vitally important.  Knowing what’s available to you means you have options.  The hope is that prior to getting ill you were banking your extra good thoughts, engaging in self-questioning to see what you’re really made of, and got enough rest and good nutrition in case you even needed to withdraw from your personal accounts.  Resourcefulness can also mean knowing who in your community can link you with people, programs, or events that will promote wellness.  Perhaps you have a Rabbi, Priest, Imam, or other spiritual director who can provide you with resources to nourish your spiritual life.  Your doctor’s office or local hospital may have resources about community nonprofits that serve those with your particular diagnosis (i.e. I was the program director at The Wellness Community, providing support and programs for cancer patients and their families).  Many illnesses have a nonprofit that can offer assistance and knows the resources that meet your necessary criteria.

Last but not least is resilience.  I’ve done work with trauma victims for years.  At one point we were all hellbent on talking about healing.  Then there was a shift.  The talk went from healing the trauma to becoming resilient.  Being resilient means developing the capacity to bounce back when faced with a challenge.  Think of Weebles…”Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”, that’s resilience.  Going through treatment may feel like taking one step back in order to take two steps forward…that’s resilience.  Resilience includes an essence of flexibility, perseverance, and faith.

Esther Tuttle didn’t fight a health challenge, but the 3-R’s she lives by are applicable to your life and your health challenge.  They are good qualities to develop as you move forward on your journey to wellness.