Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Storytelling

Who Are Your Travelers?

One of my favorite books is “The Traveler’s Gift” by Andy Andrews.  I recommend that book to everyone I meet and at every talk I give, no matter the audience.  I believe the book is a great way to focus on what’s important in your life and gives some clues on how to make changes in your life if that’s what you desire.

The book is part historical fiction and part self-help.  It takes you on a journey both through time and within, exploring your soul.  The book’s main character after suffering horrible circumstances in his life has a car accident and that prompts his journey back through time.  His journeys take deliver him to meet with historical figures and they have deep conversations.  As the main character gets ready to depart, the historical figure gives him a message, the lesson he needed to learn from that individual.

The “seven decisions”, the lessons learned from the historical figures are delivered by those such as Anne Frank, Christopher Columbus, Harry Truman, and Abraham Lincoln, just to name a few.  These prominent figures impact the main character profoundly (yes I now it’s not real), but the lessons are very real and are applicable no matter what’s going on in your life.

So I started wondering, if I were the main character in the book, whom would I hope to meet from the past that would potentially influence my life.  I know that in the book the historical figures were chosen by the Archangel Gabriel, so if that were an option for me that would be great.  However, if I were choosing my own, what criteria would I be looking for and what lessons would I be hoping to learn?

I encourage you to read this book, utilize the “seven decisions” and then think about who your travelers might be?  I’d love to share this journey with you.  Feel free to enter your journey in the comment section below or email me at

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

What if You Had the Advantages in Life That a Pilot Has Flying?

Many of us get on airplanes numerous times throughout the year.  We travel on planes for business and pleasure.  We reunite with family and friends, make important presentations, and some even travel long distances for affordable healthcare.  Ever wonder about the man or woman who is flying the plane and how prepared they are for various in-flight happenings?

Do you remember Capt. Sully who landed that jet in the Hudson River?  He’s one of the most prominent heroes in our modern-day culture.  We all watched videos of the landing as it was unfolding and now for years, we’ve had various accounts of the cockpit ordeal.  He attributed the success of the landing to years of experience and training.

One of the advantages that pilots have that we don’t have for our own lives is training in a simulator.  Pilots go in and learn how to divert catastrophe within these simulators.  They are trained for many hours in strategies to avert disaster based on mechanical or weather issues.  The question is always if under pressure can they access that training and information when it counts.

What if we had a simulator for life?  What if we could enter a training facility that gave us scenarios and we learned ways to cope and if we didn’t get it right the first time we got to try again?  Following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness wouldn’t you like a do-over?  What a luxury it would be to train in ways to handle the stress of a diagnosis, the insurmountable pile of insurance forms, or merely what it will take physically, emotionally, and spiritually to get up each day and face life’s biggest challenge…Living!

Unfortunately, we don’t have this life simulator as an option.  We are forced to live in a world with no second takes, no do-overs, and no rewind.  We are living a life of on-the-job-training and for some that’s very difficult because they don’t have the tools to cope with their health challenge.

Creating a personal toolbox of coping strategies and a support network to rely on will help easy the stress and strain of living life in real-time.  The more life experiences you have the more tools you’ll collect.  The key is to assimilate these life experiences into your being so when you need them the most; they are accessible.  Living with a health challenge poses many new life situations that no one every told us was a possibility.  For many, it’s uncharted territory and that can be scary.

What’s in your life toolbox?  How is it helping you to cope in a world without a simulator?

Posted in art and healing, creativity and health

Is Art the New Prozac?

Welcome to Art and Healing Wednesday!!

I love art.  I love everything about it; seeing it, making it, buying it, selling it, studying it, just everything about it makes my heart sing.  I’m not only talking about visual art because music, dance, poetry, and literature are all part of my creative toolbox.  So what is it about art that’s so powerful?

If you’re like me, the idea of art is to tell a story.  Just think of the ballet or the opera and you know it’s about the story.  Watch a good film and you know that even if the acting isn’t the greatest, if the story is good then it has merit.  Ever listen to a performance poet deliver words in a ay that sends shivers up and down your spine?  I have!

I know for me, personally, that art has an impact on my physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.  There have been times when I haven’t been creating artwork and family and friends turn around and ask the last time I was in the studio.  I ask them “Why” and undoubtedly they respond because you’re grumpy or sad or some other type of negative emotion.  I get back to the studio and Voila…all better.

The same has been true for me and writing.  I love writing these posts and with my new schedule didn’t feel I had the time.  I recommitted myself to this process because sharing ideas for health and healing is pivotal to my work on this planet, my reason for being here and do deny that part of myself is detrimental to my health.

When I came up to Buffalo, the first thing I packed in the car was my sewing machine and supplies.  Unfortunately I broke part of the set-up so I’ve been a bit behind the eight ball, but I have knitting with me and that’s a meditative endeavor.

Art allows you to tell your story and we know from research that when you tell your story you feel better.  When others bear witness to your story you feel validated and less isolated.  Your story is what leaves a permanent mark on the heart and soul of others.

I hope you find a creative outlet for your story.  Have something you’d like to share with the rest of us?  I’d love to see what you create…send them to and if you want maybe we can put the picture of the work and a blurb on the website so you can share your healing journey.

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

The Morning After

Whatever your religious or spiritual beliefs and inclinations I wish you a Happy Holiday Season.

It’s the day after Christmas and all through the house….remember that famous line?  I bet you have a 1001 ways to finish that poem.  The response would depend on whether or not you celebrate the holiday or simply think of it as another day.  I know that this morning there are many of you who may are venturing out to the stores to get those after holiday bargains.

The morning after is an interesting concept because it entails dealing with some degree of a let down.  You plan for months (at least some of you) and then in 10 minutes everyone opens their gifts and it’s done.   On the day of the holiday or spiritual celebration of your choice you may cook for hours and then you sit down at the table and in 20 minutes you’re finished. 

We have a tendency to build up events in our lives and take enormous amounts of energy to plan these events and celebrations and they’re over in a flash.  The question is, “did you enjoy the event/celebration/holiday?”  What will you cherish most about the day?  Following the diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness making memories are important because they are like making deposits to your emotional and spiritual bank account.

There may come times during the course of your illness that you may need to rely on the memories you created with family and friends to get you through the next leg of your journey to wellness. I’ll give you a good example that I saw on the news the other day.

Austin Williams, a typical 14-year-old had dreams of joining the army someday.  In April he was diagnosed with a myosarcoma, a very aggressive and smart tumor.  He was admitted to the hospital for a 54 week course of treatment (that’s a long time to spend in the hospital).  It was approaching week 30 and his family began to see signs that he was in the throes of giving up.  (As you I know, when facing a health challenge you have to keep forging ahead to maintain health and healing.)  His step-father was creative and called the local recruiting station and asked if a member of the army would be willing to come visit Austin in the hospital.  The army took it one step further and sent 6 soldiers.  The gave Austin a set of dog tags with his name on them and a plaque making him an honorary solider.

Watching Austin as he discussed the experience you could see something in his heart and soul re-ignited.  He was so surprised, as was his family, at the number of soldiers and grateful for the time they spent with him that it created a spark in him.  I have no doubt that the memory of that day will get him through the next 24 weeks of treatment.

When you hit that wall as many of just did the morning after the holiday; what memories will you refer back to as you venture forward on your journey to wellness.  I’d love to hear some of your stories.

For more information on health and healing check out the website at

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

Labor Day and Still I Have To Work

Labor day for many marks the end of summer.  In the old days people stopped wearing white after labor day and depending on where you live, the kids were just getting ready for school.  It’s a big sale day in the retail industry so that part of the workforce is still getting up and doing their thing.  For many, it’s a day of rest.  The last neighborhood barbecue and a look toward, as crazy as it may seem, Halloween and the holidays.

What is it about labor day that relates to living with a chronic or other life-altering illness?  It’s the “labor” part that is relevant.  It feels like a full-time job keeping on top of one’s health and for many that’s not enjoyment because it doesn’t feel optional.  Silly, of course it’s optional.  If you don’t want to look after you’re health then you’re open to getting sick…easy enough.

The truth is that labor implies a huge effort, but what if the labor was as simple as mindfulness?  As someone with a chronic illness that flares when I get a cold, sore throat, or other type of infection I’m very conscious of staying out of germs way (not in an obsessive-compulsive way), I’m just cautious. 

I work with two other people in an office.  The woman came down with a huge chest cold but we don’t share phones or computer equipment and she sits on the other side of the room.  My counterpart came in a few days later complaining of a sinus cold/infection.  I immediately began to think about what extra steps I could take to help ward off the evil germs.

The next morning I picked up some Emergen-C (this isn’t a commercial or an endorsement, just my experience)…the immune defense formula.  I take it twice a day and along with eating healthy and getting enough rest and taking the usual hand-washing precautions I’m hoping to avoid the germfest.  It’s work because it’s one more thing to consider.  It’s one more thing to make sure I don’t forget to do, so I put it with my pills.  It’s just one more thing and in a world where you feel like your dance card is filled it can be overwhelming.  It’s just one more step…that’s what I tell myself and the return-on-investment, (ROI), as they say in the business world is huge.

So on this labor day go have the juiciest hamburger you can muster, the tastiest salads and the best cobbler, but don’t forget to become mindful of those things that will make your journey to wellness less work and more fun!

Posted in Caregiving

Walk a Mile In My Shoes

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

As I take my daily bus ride to and from work during my stay in San Antonio, I think about all the stories I hear from people on the bus.  They aren’t speaking to me, but no one seems to protect the privacy of the cell phone conversations, so I have lots of stories.

I’ll hear a story and wonder what would I do in that particular situation.  The difficult part is that I don’t have all the information, only snippets.  When we don’t have all the information our brain’s natural inclination is to fill in the gaps with thoughts based on our own interactions.

How does this apply to caregiving?  Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness we’ve all be sick or injured at some point in our lives and know what depending on others is like.  On the other hand, not everyone has taken care of someone who has been dependent.  True if you’re a parent that’s all you do, but it’s different when an adult is dependent because you’re often dealing with issues of guilt and shame on the part of the patient.

So what about empathy?  It’s often for others to understand the stress, pressure, and angst that often accompanies caregiving.  It’s difficult for some people to know what it’s like keeping the plates spinning in the air.  Most of the caregivers I’ve met over the past twenty plus years have worked at great lengths to ensure that the patients needs are met and they are safe and secure as they tackle the health challenge.

It’s for this reason that I strongly recommend that caregivers attend a support group.  The rooms of the support group become your sanctuary, your confessional, your oasis in the desert.  It will be a place where all the negative thoughts you may have or feelings of resentment are acknowledged, validated, and possibly even applauded. 

The members of your support have walked a mile in your shoes, heck they may have gone a marathon in your shoes, so you ‘re in good hands.  It would be wonderful if empathy were abundant, but it’s not and it’s often a difficult skill or gift to teach.

Take care of yourself and be with those who are empathic to your situation.  It will definitely improve your peace-of-mind and will let you know you’re not going crazy!

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

Are You an Illness Whisperer?

Life is full of choices.  When we get surveys we always have to check a box that represents something about us, but is it accurate?  What if we’re more than just one thing (other than gender and age)?  We get caught up in being one thing and one thing only, but we’re multi-dimensional and following the diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness you become even more dimensional with new roles and experiences.

The fact of the matter is that you’re both a lion and a lion tamer?  It’s like the person who is a horse whisperer, being diagnosed with an illness engages you to become an illness whisperer.  What exactly does that mean?  It means that there’s a level of trust you develop with your own self.  It means that you are committed to a process that fosters and expands the possibilities for health and healing.  As a lion tamer the vision is beating the illness into submission, and that’s what treatment may do, but it’s not what you as the container are trusted to do in these instances.  Your body, mind, and spirit trust you to preserve the integrity of the self, seeking solutions to your health challenge while continuously looking for ways to improve your quality of life.

There are times when it’s important to be the lion and come out with the biggest roar possible.  Being the kingdom of your domain is important because your health is your responsibility and recruiting the best people to guide you in that process is critical for health and healing.  Your lion persona asks that you have an inner confidence, not that you’ll come up with the answer or cure for your illness; but that you have the bravado and the intent to do everything in your power to create change, both internally and externally.

Don’t get caught in one role.  Make sure that you allow yourself the flexibility to step into the shoes of person you need to be in any given moment.  This isn’t about dominance and submission, but about trust and cooperation.  Your body, mind, and spirit need to work as the driving force on your journey to wellness.

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

You Too Are an Olympian

The Winter Olympics have been going for eleven days and obviously the competition is fierce.  These athletes have trained for years, if not their entire lives to try to achieve this one goal…the gold medal.  They make sacrifices by their own choice and reap the rewards of hard training.  You on the other hand were catapulted into a new arena where there is no chance to train for the desired outcome, health and healing.

It takes Olympic perseverance to achieve health and healing.  If you think of yourself as an Olympic athlete you know that it involves all aspects of your life, not just the physical.  How many athletes did you see get psyched out by their opponents?  How many athletes did you see get psyched out by the power of their own mind and allowing a crack of doubt to enter their consciousness?

So what does this mean for you following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness?  It means that your level of determination plays a role in some level of your health and healing.  I say some level because not all illnesses can be cured so it’s about remission or diminishing symptoms or increased quality of life.  Whatever level your at that’s the level you need to play at in these heroic acts of wellness.

If you think you can go it alone and win, you’re wrong.  Your body may respond, but your emotional and spiritual self-will be isolated and alone.  This is why so many illnesses sponsor retreats for individuals with a particular diagnosis.  The one I’m most familiar with is Commonweal, in Marin County, CA.  A place for cancer patients to learn about mind-body medicine, diet and nutrition, integration of body, mind, and spirit as a treatment modality, just to name a few goals of the program.  It’s like the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs because you’re surrounded by people, information, and practices that will allow you rise to your highest level of healing.

I hope you think of yourself in Olympic proportions because it’s that type of determination that gets results.  It’s the choice, the desire, and the mission to gain as much information and self-knowledge to ensure that you stand on your own medal podium on your journey to wellness.

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

Something Out of Nothing

Is silence nothing?  What happens when we engage in silence?  What happens when we sit in silence?  Do you feel a change in your energy when you sit in silence?  Is silence tangible?  I’m asking these questions upon returning from a week-long class on consciousness.  During the week we had the opportunity to explore Bohmian Dialogue, a circle of silence but not as meditation.

There’s a difference between sitting in silence and meditating, an intentional silence where there is no discussion and Bohmian Dialogue silence where the silence is part of the consciousness and that’s the wave the participants ride.  I wondered a lot about this type of silence particularly as it pertains to those facing a chronic or life-threatening illness.  I’m intrigued at what the experience of silence does to the body in terms of healing and how that impacts or overflows to emotional and spiritual healing.

One of the important parts of this process is the ability to be silent in the presence of others.  I’ll admit I’m a talker and when I first engaged in intentional silence during my training to be a psychotherapist, I was frustrated to say the least.  Over the years I find the silence is a cauldron and my body is the liquid in the cauldron and every so often something “bubbles up” that needs to be expressed.

What might you experience during a period of silence?  Would this release anything you’ve been holding on to that causes self-limitations?  How would allowing this bubble to rise to the surface and even burst aid you in your journey to health and healing?  It’s an amazing process because you learn to become discriminating about what’s important and not important to express.  You learn the difference between a reaction and a response (more on this in weeks to come) and that’s a powerful platform for your personal healing.

No matter how you look at it, silence is something.  It can be transformational and that’s a great advantage to making something out of nothing.

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

Yesterday the Owner’s Manual, Today the Pink Slip

Let’s say that you indeed have found or created an owner’s manual for your body, now what?  It’s like the difference between renting an apartment and owning a home, can you make any changes or do they have to be pre-approved by a third party?  That’s where the pink slip comes in, who has the pink slip on your life? 

You may believe that in a world overrun with rules, regulations, and obligations that ownership is beyond the realm of your consciousness, but the truth is you do own your body.  If you own your body then aren’t you responsible for your body?  Having been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness doesn’t change the rules of ownership.  If anything being diagnosed with an illness requires that you become a more involved and conscious owner.  It requires that you do everything in your power not to void the warranty on your life.

I know all this metaphor stuff can be kind of confusing, so let’s break it down into the simplest form possible.  No one but you is responsible for your life and your body.  The team you recruit to help you maximize your level of health and healing can only do their jobs if you do yours.  Are you willing to make that kind of pledge? 

So often when we’re requires to take a pledge we back away from the issue or behavior we’re trying to correct.  Yesterday on the Oprah show, Oprah busted Lisa Ling for driving with her knee so she could text while driving.  Oprah asked Ling if she would sign a pledge to not only eliminate the behavior of texting while driving, but to relinquish all cell phone behaviors in the car.  You could see the sweat forming on Lisa Ling’s brow and her immediate response was the excuse that she lives in LA and that’s the culture.  Oprah came back with, “but isn’t texting while driving illegal in California?”

Ling did agree to cease all texting while driving and did commit to using a blue tooth device if she needed to use her cell phone while driving.  That should have been a no brainer commitment and yet it was only under duress and embarrassment that she succumbed to the agreement.  So what kind of vow to improve your level of wellness have you been avoiding?  Why is it so hard for you to commit to your own well-being when you only get one chance at life?  Isn’t it in your best interest and the interest of those you love to do everything in your power to claim ownership of your body instead of giving ownership to the illness?  I wouldn’t think there would be much debate about this but I could be wrong.  What are your thoughts on this?