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

Is Your Life Lived Conditionally?

I’ve been watching Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, watching some amazing interviews.  Watching these interviews begins to engage my inquisitive mind and I begin to think about our relationship to others and ourselves.  We’re complex beings and we all have gifts and talents that allow us to live successful lives, and contribute to the Universe.

I guess the big question that comes up is, “How conditional is your relationship to your gifts and talents?”  I ask that question because for many of us have to squelch our gifts and talents to make it day-to-day in our jobs and everyday life.  We engage our gifts and talents when we have “free time” or in times of crisis.  Is that any way to treat your gifts and talents?

Which of your gifts and/or talents would you like to explore further?  What benefits do you derive when you engage in activities that utilize your gifts and talents?  Do you find that when you engage your gifts and talents there is a positive impact on your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being?

Illness is just one of the many transitions we may experience in life.  During these times of transitions, obviously filled with stress and anxiety, there is a need to utilize all the resources, inner and outer, that are available to you.  Your gifts and talents don’t only have to be a well you go to when you’re thirsty.  Your gifts and talents can be a mainstay of your physical, emotional, and spiritual life.  They can be the nourishment you need to survive and thrive.

These are troubling times, even without an illness.  However, a diagnosis obviously complicates matters.  I’m amazed each and every time I engage someone in a conversation and they share their gifts and talents.  They’re face lights up so bright that it’s like looking into an eclipse; it’s blinding.  This is the exuberance that allows us to create a healing environment within our bodies, and in our interactions with others.

What gifts and or talents will you summon today and how will you infuse your day with possibility?

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

The Healing Olympics

We’ve all been watching the London Olympics for the past two weeks.  It’s amazing to watch these athletes compete in these often grueling events only to turn around and compete in yet another event.  Just thinking about their schedules, training routines, and level of concentration is exhausting.  Every so often there are new sports added to the Olympics like women’s boxing in the current Olympic games.  What if Health and Healing were an Olympic sport…would you be a gold medal winner?

I guess what I’m asking is, in your life, since your diagnosis, what roles have you taken on?  What commitments have you made to yourself propel yourself on your journey to wellness?  How do you “train” to increase your chances at getting better or getting well?

It’s a daunting task and if we put as much time into health and healing that Olympic athletes put into training for their chance at the gold medal would your life be different.  I know that following your diagnosis you may not have the physical stamina to “train” for your journey to wellness, but what about your emotional and spiritual training…what are you doing, how often are you doing it, and what results are you seeing?

Athletic training is grueling, intense, and for me, overwhelming.  However, when it comes to my state of mind, my preparedness for the challenges that are placed before me with my health, and the things I want and need to accomplish, taking on improving upon, turning up the volume on my body, mind, spirit connection becomes the focus of my attention.

Physical training requires that you engage in physical activity regularly.  When you don’t train for a while you don’t pick up where you left off because the body took time off and needs to rebuild to the previous level.  The same is true with your emotional and spiritual self.  If you have taken a leave from your spiritual practice, or creating a safe place for expressing your emotional self, it requires taking a step back and then moving forward.  Continuity is your ally, and it requires that you do your part in the health and healing process.

What are you willing to commit to in your quest for the “Health and Healing” gold medal?  What have you wanted to do that will bring you peace of mind, physical, emotional and spiritual unity or a simply a sense of hope?  What will it take for you to train like an Olympic athlete to increase the possibility of getting better or getting well?  What will it feel like when you stand on the medal podium and your personal anthem is sung singing your praises for a job well done?


Posted in Caregiving

Oh The Places You’ll Go

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

I don’t know why, but as I got ready to begin this post I thought about Dr. Seuss.  One of my favorite Dr. Seuss books is “Oh the Places You’ll Go”.  It got me thinking about travel but then I began thinking about travel different from a destination and more about travel as it relates to our own internal journey.

As a caregiver I’m sure you can attest to the whirlwind trip you’ve been on since the person you care about has been diagnosed with a chronic or other life-altering illness.  It’s not only about the physical places you go like to the doctor’s office, pharmacy, and lab, but the internal places you go. 

If you’re not sure what I mean let me tickle your memory for a moment and begin with the place of shock and maybe horror when you learned of your loved one’s illness.  Perhaps you entered the land of The Zombie where you were a bit numb and somehow still tried or managed to navigate through your world, but not fully present.  Then of course, for many or most caregivers, comes the role of the organizer, planner, and protector (am I getting close yet?)

These are all places you’ve gone and we haven’t even begun to think about all the places you’ll go like the joy or relief you may feel if your loved one gets better or well.  You might enter the anxiety free zone when your loved one finishes treatment and there’s a few minutes to catch your breath before you realize that it will be years before an oncologist will tell you your loved one is “cured”.

For many of the caregivers I’ve worked with over the  years, the internal journey begins when they tell their story.  There is something about sharing your journey that not only validates the time, effort, energy, love, and compassion you put into caregiving; but the spiritual journey requiring faith that you’ll be able to wake up tomorrow and do the caregiving thing once again with full awareness.

Everything in life will not be a Dr. Seuss book.  My hope is that you keep track of your journey on all levels, the physical, emotional, and spiritual places you venture since your loved one’s diagnosis.  Allow yourself the time and the space to explore these unearthed places that you may never have accessed had your loved one not been diagnosed with a health challenge.

It’s a time of reflection, but it’s also a time of action.  It’s a time of questioning, and of examining your level of trust and faith.  It’s a time of the unknown as it pertains to your loved one, but it’s also a time of knowing as your explore your own interior world.

I’d love to hear about the places you’ll go…send me an email at and let me know the places you travel on the physical world and your interior world; I’d love to be your co-pilot!

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

Would You Bet on You?

Yesterday was the Super Bowl and millions of Americans were together watching this American sports institution.  Aside from watching the game, many choose to place a little wager on the game for sport and the hopes of cashing in on their correct choice.  At work we were supposed to select a team and if we got it right, we’d get an “early out” (get to leave early on a late night shift).  I choose the Steelers and unfortunately, they didn’t win.

We bet because based on the information we believe we’re making the correct choice; the one that will give us the greatest satisfaction and the biggest reward.  So would you bet on you?  If you had to place a wager on  how “better” or “well” you’d be what would be the odds?  Now I know the doctor offered you a prognosis.  They do that mainly because you, the patient, push them to give you this magic number as if the number were the cure.  However, when if you were to place a wager on the Super Bowl or a horse race or any other event, how do you do it?

Many people when selecting their winner of choice base it on information.  If you’re sports minded you look at who’s on the team, when, where and who they’ve beaten throughout the season.  You may factor in the environment, like which arena is the game, and if you’re really into it you may look at who’s on the injured list and other scale tipping factoids.  At that point, you’re able to place your wager with confidence. 

When it comes to your health following the diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness, what information do you need.  If you were betting on a sports team and you knew one team wasn’t practicing, had a lot of players injured, seemed uninterested in winning based on interviews, are they the team you’d pick.

That’s why I want to know if you’d bet on you.  If you were an outsider would you place your money on you to win.  I’m not even saying placing a bet on whether you’d be cured, it’s like the definition of success, everyone has their own personal definition.  On the other hand, if you’re not taking care of your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs are you ready to compete?  Are you prepared for the trials and tribulations that come with a health challenge?  How’s your physical, spiritual, and emotional endurance? 

When you decided if you’d bet on you let me know the odds and what factors you took into account for your decision.  You can let me know by email at

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

How Are You At Climbing?

We all remember the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004.  It was a devastating time for the people and countries involved and a moment of pure powerlessness as we, the rest of the world, stood by and watched the devastation.  When the waves roared, and the water rose, to survive people had to get to higher ground.  They had to reach points in their country’s geography that would exceed the height of the flood waters.  This type of movement took energy, resolve, and determination.  These people didn’t have any choice if they wanted to survive.

I’m sure when you were given your diagnosis you experienced your own personal tsunami.  The epicenter is in your body, mind, and soul.  It disturbs every part of your being to the core.  You are trying to outrun the news but to no avail.  You are going to have to make decisions quickly, and with determination.  Your goal is to reach a safe place so you can regroup and make your next decision.

What is higher ground for you?  For many higher ground is information.  Reading and researching your illness will give you the information you need to make informed decisions.  You may be the type that chooses to engage in emotional or psychological higher ground by seeing a therapist or health and wellness coach.  Your first choice may be to reconcile your religious and/or spiritual beliefs and questions by meeting with a spiritual director. 

We don’t choose the same geographic location, figuratively and literally, as our higher ground.  Our coping mechanisms are different.  Our problem-solving skills are different.  Our life experiences are different.  Our ability to ask for help is different.  You’ll have determine what “higher ground” means for you and then act on that meaning.

I want to give you a heads-up.  At times climbing is exhausting.  It can take a toll on your personal resources, both internal and external.  There was no way for you to train for the climbing expedition, but know it must be done because when you reach your “higher ground” you’ll experience hope.  It’s this sense of hope that will allow you to move forward on your journey 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

Lost and Found

I was watching a documentary on PBS on The Buddha.  It was narrated by Richard Gere and was interspersed with various experts on Buddha.  Jane Hirshfield, a poet, said, “To gain everything, you first must lose everything”.  That’s a powerful statement and it has taken me two weeks to play with the idea, allowing it to bubble within my brain and my soul.  Want to know what rose to the top?

When diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness many feel as if they’ve lost everything.  This is based on that saying, “When you have your health you have everything”, but that saying doesn’t take hold for many till they or someone they know gets sick.  I guess the first thing I wonder is, “Is health and illusion?”.  Doctors and scientists say we all have cancer cells in our bodies at all times and until one goes awry we may never know, so up till that point are we well or are we sick? 

What I have figured out is that your health is important; that’s why we strive for health and healing.  The thing we have to lose to gain everything is the false self.  That persona we put out to the world hoping for acceptance, acknowledgment, and validation.  When we allow ourselves to be who we are those we attract will be attracted to our authentic self, not someone playing a role.  Your relationships will be better, longer lasting, and deeper.  That’s gaining everything.

We have to give up the idea that we’re victims to our health and become empowered.  What you’ll find is that when you’re empowered in one area of your life it begins to creep into other areas of your life.  That’s gaining everything.

When we stop thinking that the body is separate from the mind and spirit we turn a corner.  Integrating our body, mind, and spirit allows us to build endurance for the journey to wellness.  This integration is important for reclaiming your health and your life.  That’s gaining everything.

These are just a few of the things we have to give up to gain everything.  I’m wondering what you’ve had to lose in order to gain everything?  This is a rich discussion that I hope you’ll join.

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

What Keeps You Imprisoned?

An illness diagnosis makes us vulnerable to our environment, in our relationships, and to a profession that is there to help us navigate these difficult times.  When it comes right down to it, our harshest critic is usually ourselves, and finding a way to give yourself some room to breathe is important for health and healing.

On the journey to wellness there are those experiences that keep us in a holding pattern in our lives.  The question is do you know what holds you locked in that circling pattern?  Our own thoughts are usually the key factor in what keeps us imprisoned or frees us to explore new opportunities.

When facing a health challenge the idea of being locked into a mindset is frustrating.  It creates doubt in ourselves as well as those who trying to provide care and support.  Too many times people feel like they’ve been given a sentence and unfortunately they don’t ee any parole in sight. 

Hope is  the key to unlocking those menacing thoughts that keep you doubting your ability to heal (notice I said heal and not cure…they’re not the same).  We can create opportunities that will allow us to gain control over our own lives, decrease our feelings of isolation, and at every turn work to improve our quality of life.

I didn’t say it was going to be easy, but nothing worth having or achieving every is, so what will you do free yourself from this often self-imposed bondage?  What new things will you try that will set your body, mind, and spirit free to explore opportunities that will improve your attitude, increase your physical, mental, and spiritual endurance and if nothing else, make you laugh.

The diagnosis is the start of a journey and as with everything else in your life you have a choice.  You can sit in prison wasting away figuratively and maybe literally or in the words of one of my favorite singing groups, Sugarland, you can stand up and say, “There’s got to be more than this!”.  What will it be?  Let me know your choice and let’s see how together we can keep you motivated to continue 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


Happy New Year and Welcome to 2010!

This time of year is filled with a couple of thresholds.  First there is the winter solstice, for me a really important day because I know from then on the daylight will be getting longer.  For many it’s a religious day, but certainly for all a threshold.  Then we just celebrated New Years.  The threshold there is obvious, but this New Year’s Day was special because it marks the beginning of the next decade.  All weekend I’ve been listening to different news and entertainment outlets talk about the first decade of the 21st century and now we’re starting the second.

You know about thresholds!  You crossed a major threshold the day your doctor gave you your diagnosis.  There are days we want to mark, remember, and celebrate, and those we’d much rather ignore and forget.  Obviously the choice is yours, but you can’t revert back to the land before time…it’s just not possible.

We get the opportunity to create thresholds all the time.  We create thresholds each and every time we take on a new experience, or explore a new belief.  We create these thresholds because prominently marking those times and experiences ceremoniously is what new beginnings are all about.  Each threshold can be a new beginning.  We can create new rituals, attitudes and beliefs.  We have developed the capacity to establish new boundaries for our patience, tolerance and levels of perseverance. 

It’s clear that thresholds can be scary, but well worth experiencing the fear for what lies beyond the threshold.  It’s not uncommon for those facing a health challenge allow the threshold to be a declaration of independence.  We’re not tied to negative thoughts.  We don’t have to be burdened with negative attitudes.  Shedding those layers or negativity is crossing a threshold.

This isn’t about a resolution.  Resolutions are for people who have good intentions but seldom if ever have the stamina to see the intention to its completion.  When we cross a threshold we create a way to walk in the world.  What thresholds have you crossed and what’s been the result?

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

How We Live

It seems that we continually talk about how we live which is a good thing because the alternative isn’t very appealing.  However, there is a continuum and that is from birth to death and all the stages in between that create a life.  We haven’t talked much about end of life issues in these postings so that will be coming soon; but today I did want to focus on the act of living, not simply existing.

The ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates, believed that the unexamined life wasn’t worth living.  If we don’t examine our lives is it really a life or merely an existence?  If we don’t look for our contribution to the world and are complacent with the idea that there is a birth certificate with your name on it and some day there will be a death certificate with the same name, then we’re simply existing.

This isn’t about whether or not you have been given a license to abandon all responsibility and take on risks with wild abandon.  It does give you the rights and privileges that come with being born.  It does give you the right and it’s almost as if you’re expected to fill up all the space you’ve been given.  We all have boundaries, but you’d be surprised how many of us don’t expand to our full potential.  For some it’s because it may be too much work, and for others it’s simply apathy.  If it’s apathy then it’s time to light a fire under your rear end.  It’s time you step up to the plate and try and hit the ball out of the park. 

I want to be clear, how you do this is entirely based on your values and your belief system.  It’s based on your dreams and desires utilizing the skills and talents that you were given at birth.  The Motley Fools, two guys who talk about investments have a book titled “Die Broke”.  I’m saying that you should die broke with all the energy, creativity, and opportunity you were given at birth.  The world will be a better place for your zero balance.

Posted in Emotional Health, Spirituality and Health

Strength Training

How strong are you?  If you go to the gym you can measure your strength by using some of the apparatus in the gym.  Aside from muscular strength in your arms and legs you hear trainers talk about core strength; the strength in the torso of the body, abdominal and back.  It’s easy to measure your strength on the physical level but what about measuring your emotional or spiritual strength?  Is it possible to develop a workout program for you mind and spirit?  What would it look like?  How would you know the workout is working?

Developing emotional strength takes practice just as if you were working out your bodies muscles.  You develop your emotional strength by experiencing your emotions and allowing them to unfold in their own time.  When you give yourself the freedom to express yourself fully you give your emotions room to expand and become stronger in how they manifest.  Full emotional expression is freeing, stress reducing, and an authentic way to life your life.  It comes down to willingness.  If you didn’t grow up in an environment where emotions were expressed then this may be a challenge, but it can be learned.  It requires that you place yourself in environments where emotional expression is not only modeled, but encouraged.  This is why support groups are a great model for authentic emotional expression when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness.  Being in an environment where emotions are present or right below the surface gives you a safe place to experiment.  It’s like having your own emotional strength building gym.

Have you ever tried to measure your spiritual stamina?  It’s not like you can start running and see when you get tired, although the concept is similar.  Spiritual stamina requires that you find inner guidance providing you with a sense of faith and hope.  Developing your spiritual stamina is not about dogma; it’s about knowledge of your beliefs, values, and intuition.  Having the capacity to find comfort and peace by going within is building spiritual stamina.  Some may need a personal trainer just like when training the physical body and they turn to spiritual directors to help fortify their spiritual stamina in the face of a health challenge.  Knowing that there are others willing to support your is empowering.  It punctuates the knowledge that you have your own internal and external resources for health and healing.

Remember that developing your emotional and spiritual strength is just as important as developing your physical health when facing a health challenge.  Finding outlets that will support this development is the key.  Learning to ask good questions of yourself and others serves as a catalyst for this type of development.  It’s about coordinating your strength building efforts between the mind, body, and spirit.  Don’t underdevelop one area and over develop others…you’ll live life lopsided.