Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with life threatening illness, Doctor's Visits, living with chronic illness

Does the Magic 8 Ball Have all the Answers?

Remember having a Magic 8 ball as a kid?  It felt so mysterious to see the answers and the direction of your life floating in green liquid.  The answers were, obviously, quite limited because there were just so many sides on the floating piece inside the ball.  It’s nothing like the Bat Computer; just put in all the information you had and it popped out the information Batman and Robin needed.

When dealing with a health challenge or some other life trauma we’re looking not for simple yes or no responses.  We’re not seeking answers that are so generic that the answer received could apply to life and death matters as much as to decisions about what brand of salad dressing to buy at the grocery store.  So what does it take to get the “good “ answers you wanted and need?

The truth is the answers can only be as good as the questions asked.  One of the things drilled into me during my psychotherapy training was the importance of good questions.  The questions needed to be open-ended, not able to be answered with a yes or no answer.  They had to be direct, no beating around the busy.  As I often stated to my clients, “Don’t ask the question, if you don’t want the answer”; truth is the only acceptable response.

What is it that you want to ask your medical team about your health?  What do you want to know about the course of your particular disease?  How much do you want to know about what’s on the horizon for treatment or research (always make sure your medical provider is up-to-date on what’s happening in the field by reading journals, attending conferences and other disease specific trainings).

The Buddhists will tell you that life is all about living in the question.  That would require every dialogue to propel you toward the next question.  Living in the question is a type of soul-searching treasure hunt with the question being the clues to the next leg of the journey.

How good are you at asking questions?  How detailed are your questions?  Are pointed are your questions?  I guess it depends on how much you honestly want to know.  Think about it the next time you ask someone, anyone a question.  Think about the answer your seeking and let that be your guide!

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Doctor's Visits

The Dancing Doctor

Last night was the final episode of NY Med.  I’ve shared my love for these shows because they show a behind the scenes look at the places you and I fear most.  I believe that overwhelmingly these programs show the staff in a different light than we’re used to, a more compassionate, almost goofy staff going about their daily business just like you and me.

One of the cases last night was an eighteen-year-old boy with Crohn’s Disease.  Because of his illness, the young man look as if he were about twelve or thirteen, very skinny, and not as tall as one would expect an eighteen year old to be.  The goal for the young man’s surgery was to remove the scarring that has occurred over the years and as well as the damaged part of the intestine.  Watching this young man was inspiring.  What he wanted most was to be able to eat whatever he wanted and be like his friends.

The young man went into surgery with the Chief-of-Surgery at the helm and a very conscientious resident.  The surgeon aside from the Chief-of-Surgery is one of the most prominent gastrointestinal surgeons in the country.  The young man was in good hands.  The surgery was successfully completed, the surgeon spoke with the family and at the end of the show we hear that young man has gained some weight and grown an inch; an enormous success.

When they interviewed the doctor about the case he was ecstatic.  The young man was going to thrive, something that had been out of his reach while facing this debilitating illness.  The sweetest part of the interview was when the doctor began an impromptu tap dance.  He was thrilled that this young man was going to move on to have a fulfilling life.

Surprisingly, this type of lightness and humor was not what we usually see when we go to the doctor.  I’m fortunate to have some fabulous doctors, none who dance, but certainly have shared their own personal life experiences with me, increasing their level of humanity in my eyes.  I still see them as the expert, but they aren’t necessarily on a pedestal.  They are just as human as I am, and when I can connect with them on that level, my confidence level increases, and I feel part of my own healthcare team.

What would you want to now about your doctor?  Have you ever thought to ask?  My healthcare provider has physician profiles on their website to help members choose a physician they feel they can relate.  The profile not only includes their medical training, but their interests and sometimes some personal information about their family.  I utilize this information when I have to make a decision.  I’m not picking a physician who’s passion is the biking and mountain climbing; we wouldn’t have much in common, but I am impressed by the range of interests and passions of these physicians.

Do you feel it would be helpful if you saw your doctor more as a mortal than a demi-god?  What would make you a bit more comfortable with your medical provider?

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

Better Get Your Hard Hat

When you walk the streets of a city you often see fenced areas with signs that say, “Construction Zone”.  We often take specific actions when we see these signs.  There are some people who will look into the construction site to see what’s “becoming”, while others will cross over to the other side of the street to avoid the noise, the dust, and the fear of something falling on them.

Construction zones are clearly metaphors for what we create in our lives.  Ever watch demolition teams implode a building to make room for something bigger and grander?  It’s very exciting to see a building fall in on itself, only to know that once the rubble is cleared, there will be something new rising out of the dust, like a Phoenix!

So what are you thinking about as you read this post about construction zones?  I was reading this morning and there was a story of a fourth grade teacher who said to the kids in her class, “You’re either on the destruction team or you’re on the construction tea in your life, and you gotta choose now.”

You are empowered to choose whether your life will be marked by acts of destruction or construction following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-altering illness.  We are placed before a fork in the road and need to make decisions based on the information we’ve acquired, the level of hope and possibility we experience, and the level of commitment we have to our journey to health and healing.

When I refer to the destruction or construction team, I’m not discussing just the physical body, but the mind and spirit as well.  I found this week that I was in a bit of funk and realized that I had to extricate myself from the negative people around me because they were weighing me down emotionally and spiritually.  I was choosing, much to my dismay, to be part of the destruction team…needless to say I made some changes.

I am choosing to be part of the construction team of my life.  I’m actively taking actions that will improve my mind/body health.  I encourage you to put on your hard hat and get to work creating a construction zone for health and healing!

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

Beware of Sharp Points

How many times in your life have you been stuck by the thorn of a rose?  Have you ever tried to sew on a button and stuck yourself with the needle?  Life is full of things with sharp points and the trick or the mission, if you will, is to avoid the sharp points.  Unfortunately life is a complicated and avoiding the sharp points is often impossible.  There are some who would say it’s important to have the sharp points in our lives because by avoiding them we are conscious of our place physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  On the other hand, being stuck by something with a sharp point brings us back to center and back in our bodies so some would applaud the sharp object for waking us up.

Being diagnosed with a chronic or other life-altering illness is like being stuck with something sharp.  It hurts!  It causes pain!  It can make us fearful to continue what we were doing for fear of being stuck again.  The flip side of being stuck with this sharp object, the diagnosis, is that now you are aware of what is going on in your body.  You may have had symptoms and the diagnosis being the sharp points brings answers.  The sharp objects in our lives cause us concern because they represent an uncertainty.   The sharp points make us cautious and if that means we need to slow down a bit, then maybe that’s a good thing.

No one wants to be stuck by a sharp object.  No one wants to inflict pain on themselves, but the diagnosis is not something you did to yourself.  It’s like walking into a door or stubbing your toe on the bedpost…it happens, it hurts, and you will now take action to reinforce in your mind, body, and spirit ways to avoid it happening again.  In the case of your diagnosis that means taking measures to promote health and healing.

It’s important to remember what being stuck with a sharp point feels like so you can actively engage in healing behavior.  I can tell you that I’m currently working with an individual who had a stroke about 6 months ago, that’s a sharp point, and yet he continues to smoke knowing the danger and the possibility of being stuck by another sharp point.  You have to ask yourself why someone would engage in masochistic behavior.  I personally try to avoid the sharp points; I don’t invite them into my life!

How will you avoid the sharp points that are in the world?  What actions are you taking to promote health and healing?

Posted in after the diagnosis

Life In Translation

The world is constantly evolving so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the same goes for our lives.  Every day we have the opportunity to create new experiences and deepen our inner lives.  Until you were diagnosed with a chronic or life-altering illness you may not have been thinking about the changes that could possibly be happening within your body.

Bill Weir, co-anchor of ABC’s Nightline, was doing a story on healthcare.  He had a full-body scan and the doctor found some calcification in one of his valves.  The findings weren’t necessarily surprising, but his reaction was the surprising piece of the story.  Until he had this scan he felt he was invincible.  He hadn’t had a physical exam in at least three years; I wonder if that’s denial, arrogance, or stupidity.  His reaction was common to anyone whose had unsuspecting information given by your doctor; his life flashed before his eyes.  He was foreshadowing what life would be like for his daughter without her father.

He’s not the first and certainly won’t be the last person who believed they were invincible to ill-health.  Weir has the fortunate opportunity to reverse the findings of his new diagnosis.  What we have to wonder is how will this new translated life play itself out.  We may never see a follow-up to Weir’s story, but what about the new translation in your own life?  What will you be doing to allow your life to evolve?

Unfortunately, Rosetta Stone doesn’t have a language program for learning the language of medicine.  The new vocabulary and life regimens can only be learned by immersion.  The do say that immersion is the best way to learn a new language, so how can you become fluent?  The easiest way is to live with lots of curiosity.  I encourage you to ask your doctor lots of questions.  I was fortunate because my doctor, after showing me my ultra-sound, figured it would be easier if he drew me a picture (good doctor, not so good artist).

How will you be living a life in translation?  How will you become bi-lingual and bi-cultural with the healthcare industry?






Posted in after the diagnosis

The Importance of a Great Doctor

I’ve been dealing with some health issues over the past six weeks.  I’ve become quite friendly with my internist as I’ve seen him three times in a month.  Each time he has been respectful, inquisitive, and proactive.  We’ve discussed treatment options and altered the medication I’m taking to resolve the issue.  At this last appointment he suggested it’s time to see the specialist.  I did what all of you should do, I went home and researched the doctor’s credentials.  I checked where he went to medical school, but more importantly, I wanted to see where he did his residency.  The residency is where the doctor get’s their in-depth training, especially for a specialist.  I was very secure in the qualifications of the physician easing my anxiety of having to see the specialist.

I arrived for my appointment to find a nurse who was terrific.  She was caring, polite, and really knew what was going on.  She explained how the appointment would go and when she took my blood pressure she found it to be a bit high.  I explained that I have “white coat syndrome” (where one’s blood pressure goes up just being in the doctor’s office).  In addition, I’ve been dealing with pain for the past six weeks and that has a tendency to raise one’s blood pressure.  She informed me that I should have my pressure checked in the next couple of days as that’s the new protocol from my medical provider, good to know!

The doctor entered the room and jokingly welcomed me to the specialty practice.  He was acknowledging that no one really wants to the see a specialist because it means that the situation has been elevated to the next level of seriousness.  He did an exam and seemed hopeful, a very good sign.  He invited me to his office where he started to show me my ultra-sound and then decided to make a drawing to explain what was happening.  Following his artistic creation he did show me the ultra-sound so I would have a better understanding of my current health status.

He prescribed some medication and emphasized that he was committed to resolving my current health challenge.  He also was kind enough to let me know that it could take some time because sometimes the body or in this case, an infection, can be quite stubborn.  I left the appointment feeling relieved because like so many of you I figured I had something much more serious.  I had already gone down that dark tunnel, only to be lifted back to the light.

Having a doctor who instill confidence is vitally important!  Having a doctor who instills hope is vitally important!  Having a doctor who makes it clear that you’re a team is vitally important!

If you have other things that you think are vitally important please share them with us!



Posted in after the diagnosis, Emotional Health

What Forces Are Holding You Down?

The diagnosis of a chronic or life-altering illness leaves most of us dazed and confused.  Shifting our consciousness to health and wellness may be new to you and for those of you who have had this on your mind, the thoughts become more intense.  After the diagnosis it takes commitment to work toward getting better or well. It never ceases to amaze me how many times I hear people ask what it takes to get the obstacles or challenges out-of-the-way.  Really what they’re asking me is, “How can I lift the forces that are holding me down?”

Have you ever heard the phrase, “We’re our own worst enemy?”  I bring that up because it’s too easy to shift the locus of control to external forces.  What if we made a shift and asked, “How am I holding myself down?”  There was a book that came out many years ago that speaks to this issue, “You can’t afford the luxury of a negative thought.”  Negative thoughts are certainly one of the forces that would be holding you down.  Believe it or not, negative thoughts are very heavy.  They feel like a ton of bricks.  The problem is that we’re a culture that seems to thrive on negativity.  One of the things over the past few years has been a move toward positive affirmations, positive thinking, and empowerment.  These are some of the things that can lighten the load.

Another huge force that holds many of us down is isolation.  We’ve become so busy that we don’t take the time to connect with others.  Social networking attempts to create connection, but virtual connections only carry us so far.  We’re social animals and we need connection.  Having in-person social interactions allows us to experience things with people in real-time.  We get to share of ourselves to others and reap the rewards of the sharing from others.  This is one of the reasons that following a diagnosis, a support group is so important on your journey to wellness.

I believe that another way to lift the forces that may be holding you down is believing in what’s possible.  What’s possible is maximizing the things you can control.  You engage a medical team that you believe will provide you with the best possible treatment possible.  Having faith in your medical team is a force that can lift you up instead of holding you down.  Engaging your body, mind, spirit connection will fortify your inner strength.  When you feel empowered you make better decisions and that can’t help but lift you up.

The first step in lifting the forces you feel may be holding you down is believing that you have some control over those forces.  Make it a point to exercise your voice in all aspects of your life.  Question everything!  Feeling empowered is good for the soul!

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

I’m OK…Bird Not So Lucky

I left Nashville yesterday morning where I have been working for the past four months.  I’m on my way home to Denver so I was on 70West last nite on the phone(I have a wireless, no hands…don’t worry not holding a phone) when something smashed into my windshield.  The windshield shattered and a fair amount of glass came into the car, but the windshield amazingly was still in tact.  It was obviously a surprise; I screamed and had to figure out my next plan of attack.  Of course, that’s when the light came on indicating I needed gas so I guess I was going to stop.

When I got out of the car I noticed feathers in the windshield wiper.  Easy deduction, I was hit by a bird.  I’m sure the bird didn’t survive, but fortunately I made it to Kansas City last night and I’m safe and sound.  I scheduled for a company to come out and replace my windshield so my plans had to change.  I’m spending an extra day in Kansas City delaying my arrival home a day.  Right now I’m sitting in my hotel room waiting for the glass company to arrive between the hours of 12-5…are you thinking what I’m thinking?

After I got past the horror of the event last night I started thinking about the ramifications of having a Kamikaze bird hit my windshield, other than the obvious past that the bird died.  Like so many of us that have been diagnosed with a chronic or life-altering illness this experience made me think fast.  It required me to make an assessment, come up with a plan, and then execute that plan.  I had to utilize the centering skills I have of deep breathing to get past the anxiety of something hitting the windshield with that much force.  I knew I had to touch base with loved ones so they wouldn’t worry and I could get words of encouragement and love since I was traveling.

These are the things that you have to take into consideration when facing a health challenge.  You’re obviously not going to be able to plan out everything that will take place during treatment.  You’ll have to learn to become a bit more flexible in your planning.  It will require you to always think about alternatives since you may have to change plans with very little time.  You will need to develop a practice that will center you enough so you can make what may be important decisions with a clear mind.  These are things I continuously work on and the practice seemed to pay off last night, even though it wasn’t related to my health (well I guess in some way it was…lol).

Today is a new day and I’m feeling good.  As I wait for the glass company to arrive the only thing I can think is, “It could have been worse”.  I feel blessed!

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

What If You Were A Balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Growing up my father worked at a company whose offices faced 7th Avenue in New York, along the parade route.  The families of the employees would come and watch the parade from the warmth of the offices.  It was amazing to see the big balloons pass by, almost scary because of their enormity.  The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is still one of those things I look forward to every year.  It’s just a part of the holiday, and as I’ve grown older I’ve started to see how certain, even silly, things have a bigger meaning about how we live our lives; especially after being diagnosed with a chronic or life-altering illness.

I was discussing this idea of the parade balloons last night with a client.  I asked her, “What if you were a balloon in the parade, who or what tethers you to the ground?”  That’s a pretty tall order if you ask me (no pun intended).  If we aren’t tethered or grounded we’d just float away.  We’d just ramble through our lives, bounding around, constantly in search of something, but not really knowing what that something is.

So sit back, close your eyes (after you finish reading this post) and ask yourself how am I tethered/grounded to my life?  Who are the people who make me feel connected and loved, that grounds you.  What relationships do I have that are true, unconditional, and solid; that grounds you.  What activities, passions, causes are in your life that give you joy and provide meaning for who you believe you are; that ground you.  What are you pursuing in your life that allows you, encourages you, may even force you to go deeper into your soul (it creates a root system so you have a strong foundation); that grounds you.

I hope you’ll give this some consideration, because following the diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness it’s easy to feel free-floating.  It’s common for me to hear stories from clients that they are drifting and aren’t sure where they are going to land.  Your life is big and having ways to stay grounded is crucial for your journey to health and healing.  If you’re a little short on those things that keep you grounded consider what your next step(s) might be and take one and begin that journey.  If you have any questions you can always email me at

Peace to you and your family on this Thanksgiving Holiday!!!


Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, creativity and health, Emotional Health, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

From the Words of Mary Oliver

I got out of work early the other night and decided after my knitting ritual to head out to Barnes and Noble.  I hadn’t been to the store in a long time and decided to venture out and see what they had in available.  I went through the magazines, the usual categories of books that I am most attracted to and of course the journals…I love journals.  I started to walk out the door and the header “Poetry” caught my eye.  I meandered over to the Poetry section and of course went in search of a book by my favorite poet Mary Oliver.

I found a book, opened to the first poem and decided I had to buy the book without looking at any other poem; that’s how loudly the poem spoke to me.  When I got home I found a short poem I’d like to share with you because I found it comforting, thought-provoking, and of course beautiful.

We Shake With Joy

We shake with joy, we shake with grief.

What a time they have, these two

housed as they are in the same body.

It’s amazing to think that the mind can hold two emotions simultaneously.  We don’t often think that the body has to also hold these emotions at the same time.  What happens in your body when you hold what might be considered conflicting emotions?  How does it impact your health and healing?

I often find that they compliment each other.  Having the capacity to hold these emotions that are both intense brings me to life.  It reinforce the power of our emotions and that is life affirming.  Are you facing a time of conflicting emotions or body sensations?  Let me know what your feelings are about the poem by Mary Oliver.

I’ll meet you at the bookstore!