Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness, newly diagnosed illness, overcoming adversity

Dead Sea, Black Sea, Red Sea…Pink Sea?

You may be wondering is there really a pink sea; Google it and see what comes up. The truth is there is no Pink Sea, but today is October 1st and you may be experiencing a Sea of Pink. Today begins Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The use of the color pink has brought enormous attention to the Breast Cancer community. It has become defining, creating a community of those diagnosed with breast cancer, those living beyond breast cancer, and their families.

I was in Houston in April at the annual conference of the Arts and Health Alliance. While I was in town walking the main road an army of pink passed me. They were in the midst of their annual Avon Walk for the Cure. Women, men, and children all wearing pink to show their support for the Breast Cancer community.

The color pink linked to the breast cancer community has created a link and a way for community members to show their connection to the community. It becomes more prominent this time of year when buildings change out their white bulbs for pink bulbs shining a pink glow against their buildings in support. Pink ribbons are in full bloom like a field of wild lavender. It’s truly amazing that an illness has gone beyond the diagnosis and has created a community of hope, inspiration, and education.

The breast cancer community has created a culture and that’s not an easy thing to do. They have brought together the medical community, the corporate community, and individuals for a common cause. We’ll see a month filled with news stories about mammograms, treatment updates, and news of new medications such as Perjeta (a drug given FDA approval this past week).

You may not be a fan of the pink culture. Barbara Ehrenreich, noted author, is anti-pink. On an NPR interview she was clear that she didn’t want to be buried with a pink Teddy Bear. She doesn’t want to be defined for having an illness. She may not want to be defined by the pink culture, but it has served many raising money and pressure to find a cure and new treatments.

It doesn’t matter if you support the pink culture. It does matter that you support those facing Breast Cancer and all other illnesses. Perhaps we can find ways for other illnesses to find a culture that will help make their need more notable!

Are you or a loved one facing Breast Cancer?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit

Want to heal through art?  Visit

Follow me on Twitter: @GregKatz2

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

What I Know For Sure

I’m continuously inspired by the stories I’m honored to bear witness to regarding how you’re living your life with a chronic or other life-altering illness.  I’ve heard countless stories of courage, perseverance, and faith.  What I realized this morning is that I’ve spent my entire career working in arenas where community is key.  I’ve worked in drug and alcohol outpatient social model programs.  I’ve worked at The Wellness Community where the word “community” is the optimal word.  Community is how we get through the ups and downs of living with a chronic or other life-altering illness.

I remember one of the questions that Oprah Winfrey used to ask her guests was, “What do you know for sure?”  This morning it really hit me.  I know for sure that we can’t live in isolation.  The diagnosis of a health challenge often inflicts the feeling of isolation upon us because we believe the struggle is ours and ours alone.  I’m a firm believer in support groups because they get us out of the idea of being “terminally unique”.  The notion that we are going through this ordeal and no one has ever done this before.  Support groups break through that myth and put you in the midst or in some cases a sea of others facing the same challenge(s).

We’re social creatures.  We thrive in community.  So think of this…if we thrive in community and we focus on thrive don’t you think your body, your cells, will thrive in community?  The mind, body, spirit connection is strong so building one part of the triad up helps build the others.  Support and nurturance give your body the physical, emotional, and spiritual nutrients it needs to thrive.  Having others who you can rely on and who rely upon you makes you feel nurtured and needed.  You belong to something larger than yourself. 

I believe in community so much and obviously so do many others because entire movements have been established to create community.  Think of the Susan G. Komen Foundation.  Their “Race for the Cure” and the Avon Breast Cancer Walk gets thousands of people together in one place, engaging in one activity, for a common cause.  It’s why walk-a-thons have become so popular for fundraising by nonprofits serving those with a chronic or life-threatening illness…it builds community.

I hope you find your community, your tribe.  I believe it will reduce stress, help you make better decisions about your health, and keep you connected to others.  I’m prescribing lots of connection on your journey to wellness.

Posted in art and healing, creativity and health

You Don’t Have To Be A Star…To Be In My Show

Welcome to Art and Healing Wednesday!!

As you know October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  If you didn’t know this little fact then you now understand why anything and everything turns pink the month of October.  The Susan G. Komen Foundation has brought breast cancer awareness to the globe and it has been adopted in every arena, including football.  This past Sunday football players were wearing pink shoes and gloves and then these items were auctioned after the game.

I talk about the “Pink” because about a year ago I found a YouTube video of hospital employees that did a dance number all wearing pink gloves.  It obviously took off because now they have a website,, and other medical centers across the country have gotten involved.

The sequel to the “Pink Glove Dance” is made up of hospital employees from 13 medical centers across the country spliced into a dancing montage and everyone is, you guessed it, wearing pink gloves.  They even included breast cancer survivors in the video.

Are you wondering what this has to do with Art and Healing?  There are really two parts to the answer.  The first is obvious, music and dance brings people together because it’s fun.  In this case it’s not only fun but it has a specific meaning.  The goal of the “pink glove dance” is to bring about awareness for breast cancer and the sequel is to let everyone with breast cancer know they are not alone.

The second part of the answer is that you don’t have to be a star, on broadway, on American Idol, or So You Think You Can Dance to allow music and dance to flow through you.  You’ll see in the video it’s not about being a drill team, but to come together as a community and make a statement.  The statement is that those fighting breast cancer and their loved ones have the full and devoted support of the community.

Imagine my surprise when I saw my local hospital featured in the video (Go Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree, CO).  The video includes the housekeeping staff, the food service employees, the nurses, administrators, doctors, lab techs, etc. all dancing to show their support.

How would you like to show your support?  Go watch the video at the website and then create your own routine.  This is about breast cancer, but all you have to do is change the color of the gloves and you can support any cause you want.  It’s fun, creative, and has tremendous significance not only to those who participated, but to everyone who watches the videos.

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

Celebrate You

We all have so many things we think we can do better that we often don’t acknowledge our accomplishments.  Our society has become so focused on lack or shortcomings that when we achieve something or reach a goal sometimes we overlook the accomplishment.  This is particularly true when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness.  There is a tendency for the rest of your accomplishments to go by the wayside if your level of well-being isn’t ideal.

I got a good reminder about this very point today from none other than my father.  I’m a textile artist and I have a show that is opening tomorrow evening.  He called to wish me well and to share his excitement for me on this endeavor.  His last words to me were, “I hope you enjoy the art”.

After I got off the phone it took me a moment to realize what he was telling me.  He wanted me to acknowledge my accomplishment.  He wanted me to take note of the progress and good that comes out of hard work and discipline.  He was getting me to turn my attention by on myself, instead of deflecting away from me.

It’s easy to get caught up in the test results from the doctor, or the side-effects from the medication, but what have you accomplished.  I know there have been lots of television ads asking people to sign up for the Avon Walk-for-the-Cure supporting the Susan G. Komen foundation.  People are coming together to support and honor those of importance in their lives.  They are celebrating their loved ones who may have died, are living with breast cancer, or may have a genetic predisposition for the disease.  It is a community that is being celebrated.

Maybe you’ve decided, following your diagnosis, to start a new career, or pick up a new hobby.  How it going?  What do you enjoy most about your actions?  How is your life richer since starting these new ventures?

Celebrating You is a gift.  It’s an opportunity to create a life around those things you can make conscious decisions about.  They aren’t reliant on any cells, pharmaceuticals, or divine intervention.  How are you going to celebrate you?  I’d love to hear how you start the celebration!

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


As usual I’m reading a few books at the same time trying to quench my thirst for wisdom or at least knowledge.  Those who have overcome difficult times often refer to “the dark night of the soul”.  It has become a euphemism and is not, at least according to experts, what those who coined the idea intended when they shared their thoughts.  St. John of the Cross is the person we can credit with the phrase “dark night of the soul”.  However, he didn’t intend for it to mean sitting on a bathroom floor, crying for hours and feeling an internal sense of desperation as described by Elizabeth Gilbert in “Eat, Pray, Love”.  Instead he truly looked at “the dark night of the soul” as viewing something obscure, difficult to see but not devastating to life.

Once I read about St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross I wanted to view a modern interpretation of “dark night of the soul” and found a book by Gerald May by that title.  One line caught my attention, “Liberation, whether experienced pleasurably or painfully, always involves relinquishment, some kind of loss” (p. 70).    I’ve argued this point for years.  I believe that our path of grieving begins the moment we’re born and leave the warmth, protection and isolation of the womb.  Throughout our lives we will continue to suffer loss and it becomes cumulative over our lifetimes.

When diagnosed with an illness loss is a key ingredient in life’s recipe.  I don’t care how minuscule the loss, there is a change from how life was lived before the diagnosis.  Maybe it won’t have a huge impact on your life, but it will have an impact.  The shift may be conscious or unconscious but it will be made.  It’s crucial that we honor our losses.  When we honor the changes we’re able to live without pretending.  The hope is that it shifts your priorities.  I think a lot about Tim McGraw’s song “Live like you were dying”.  Imagine if we were really able to understand the meaning of the song.  What if we truly lived each day as if it were a precious gift and not simply as something to get through.

Honoring a loss is liberating because it releases the binding power of the diagnosis.  It creates opportunities, and for some it creates community.  Have you ever been to a Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure?  Thousands of women, men and children congregate to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer research and services.

The question becomes what will it take or how will you liberate yourself?  What does liberation in the face of illness mean to you?  What will you do with that liberation?