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Dare to care …

This is the post excerpt.

                        Oak Allee at Brookgreen Gardens, Pawleys Island, SC

 

Did you know that 133M Americans live with a Chronic illness? By 2020, that number will exceed 150M. This isn’t my opinion. This is fact. They are our spouses, siblings, parents, grandparents, neighbors and co-workers. They are young and old. No race or social-class is immune. This is America’s health crisis! One that needs far more attention than it is getting. Awareness of this issue is important. Support for those afflicted is an even greater priority. We are in this journey called life, together. Dare to care!

Consider His Footprints In Your Life …

Most Christians have heard of the prose “Footprints In The Sand”, written by Mary Stevenson in the 1930’s. They may own a copy. It has appeared on many plaques, mugs, t-shirts, etc., over the years. It’s authorship has even been debated. But, for a moment, let’s stick to the message of the poem — not marketing or legal wrangling. The poet reflecting upon her life, asks the Lord, why He wasn’t walking with her through the most difficult of times. And He responds, “The Times when you have seen only one set of footprints, is when I carried you.”

Wow! For any Christian, those words are profound. Scripture teaches us, in Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified … for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” But have you ever stopped to reflect upon how this verse applies to your life? Have you stopped to consider the times, as the poem describes, where just one set of footprints can be seen? How many times has the Lord carried you through the sand of life?

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For many, it’s easier to forget the worst of times than to reflect upon them. They stick the bad and ugly, in a tightly locked box … somewhere in the back of their memory … safe and out-of-the-way. It’s not that they aren’t grateful. It is how they cope. But when you live with a Chronic illness, the struggle can be overwhelming … frustrating … even depressing … for long periods of time. Most of these patients don’t have the luxury of tucking the worst of moments away and forgetting. They live with the initial struggle, daily. Then, there are complications that add to that struggle. The setbacks can seem endless. Scary. Lonely. At such times, even the most devout of Christians may wonder if the Lord has abandoned them.

Does the latter describe how you or a loved one is feeling? If it does, I encourage you to read Mary’s poem. Imagine your life as footprints in the sand — the Lord’s footprints right beside your own. Imagine that long stretch of beach. Sometimes, the sand is warm and enjoyable. The kind that you want to wiggle your toes in. Other times, it feels cold and hard. Unpleasant. Perhaps, it’s even painful to walk on? And then, if you will, consider how many times there was just one set of footprints. His footprints.

The Lord was there, in the worst of times. He has carried both you and me. Not just once or twice. His presence wasn’t fleeting, in our lives. He’s been there for us, many times — taking us through our trials and tribulations … rejoicing in our triumphs. Even when our faith was shaken, the Lord has been there every step of the way. And He will continue to be there … taking this journey called life with us … and carrying us if need be. His strength has lifted us … guided us through our darkest moments. He has answered our prayers … calmed our fears. We weren’t alone. We can see His footprints in the sand. When we needed him, He was with us. And He is with us, now. If you are like me, that knowledge will give you the courage to keep going … to keep walking … to keep fighting every hardship. Warmer sand lies ahead. He will get us there. May God Bless …

 

Reference Links:

http://www.footprints-inthe-sand.com/index.php?page=Poem/Poem.php

*Photo by Christopher Sardegna on Unsplash

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Living With Parkinson’s

For millions who live with a chronic illness, it’s easy to recall life before the diagnosis. It’s equally easy to remember the day that the diagnosis was given — falling like a ton of bricks over them. Those living with Parkinson’s Disease understand this. They’ve been there. In fact, for many living with Parkinson’s, there were little if any symptoms in the beginning. But as the disorder progressed, their symptoms worsened. And there was no denying the obvious … something was wrong.

Parkinson’s Disease is caused when nerve cells, called neurons, break down or die in the brain. This loss of neurons leads to abnormal brain activity and many of the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s, i.e. slowed movement, tremors, speech changes, behavioral changes, rigid muscles, sleep disruption, impaired balance, etc. The exact cause of Parkinson’s Disease is unknown. However, research has proven that genetics and environment can play a role. And age is a clear risk factor.

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At present, there is no known cure for Parkinson’s. But there are interesting strides being made in medical research. In August of 2018, a clinical trial began treating Parkinson’s patients with stem cells. This trial, conducted at Kyoto University in Japan, is the first of its kind in the world. It follows a highly successful restoration of brain cell function via stem cells, in animal subjects, in 2017.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, it’s essential that you manage your disease. Though no special diet is required, healthy eating is always beneficial. Try to plan a period of rest, in your day. It will help offset fatigue. Avoid a heavy schedule. This will help minimize stress. Avoid extreme physical activity. If you need help, ask a family member or friend to pitch in. Patients with chronic illnesses, like Parkinson’s, need a good support system to lean on. Find yours. Talk to them. Take your medication as directed. Keep those appointments with your doctor and/or therapists. Simple, commonsense remedies, i.e. massage, warm baths, heating pads, etc., help immensely. So, don’t ignore them. Try them. You might be pleasantly surprised. 

Living with Parkinson’s, as with most chronic illnesses, involves change. The more that you are willing to adapt, the easier it will be to manage and live with your disease. Yes, there will be tough times. But, with an optimistic approach and a feasible game-plan, there can be good times as well. Go for it!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/parkinsons-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20376055

http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2018/worlds-first-clinical-trial-treat-parkinsons-disease-stem-cells/

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/parkinsons-disease

https://www.webmd.com/parkinsons-disease/guide/parkinsons-daily-activities#4

https://www.michaeljfox.org/foundation/news-detail.php?cdc-selects-parkinson-as-one-of-the-first-diseases-included-in-new-database

*Photo by Sandra Ahn Mode on Unsplash.

 

 

Happy New Year!

As the fireworks were bursting in the night sky, what were you thinking last night? It’s 2019! What will the future bring? What should you do? What will you do? Deep questions. Most of us become reflective, with the New Year — even ambitious. Millions make New Year’s resolutions. And, sadly, most people let them slip away. If you are one of the millions who have suffered that defeat, or failure as it is often perceived, you know the burden that comes with it. Hurt. Anger. Frustration. Possibly depression. Nobody needs that added stress. It simply isn’t healthy.

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In 2019, consider a new approach. Let this be the year that you make a list of your accomplishments, in 2018. Or perhaps, a list of 4-5 things that you are looking forward to in 2019? You could even think beyond yourself and think of others instead. When we donate our time, or a monetary donation, we not only help those in need … we help ourselves as well. Research studies have actually shown that when we give of ourselves through volunteering, or a donation, we feel better. It makes us happier. Volunteerism can reduce stress, offer fulfillment, boost your self-confidence, even combat depression. It can help us improve our social skills, provide a different setting for networking, make new friends. All are a plus! When we think of others, i.e. non-profits, community, places of worship, etc., we actually improve our own health and skills. Imagine that! And who doesn’t want better health or happiness in 2019? I know that I do. Best wishes and new discoveries to all!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/volunteering-and-its-surprising-benefits.htm/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-science-willpower/201212/five-things-you-can-do-instead-new-year-s-resolutions

*Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Be Still …

As December and 2018 draw to a close, a lot of folks are feeling wiped-out in one way or another. The holiday frenzy can be draining to the body, mind and soul. At times like this, rejuvenation is required. And nothing can be more rejuvenating than the sweet, sound of silence. So, please, stop … and soak it in.

Christianity teaches us to “be still”, in several verses. It is a lesson taught in other faiths as well — to stop, rest, think. Our lives move at a hastened pace. Most show no sign of slowing down. We have health issues, work demands, relationships, financial problems and the list goes on. As it mounts, our stress builds. Sometimes, it results in arguments and bad decisions. All of this leads to more stress … more frustration … more hardship … and more heartache. Despite our best intentions, we lose control — feel overwhelmed. But when we are still, we think more clearly. We breathe more easily. The madness ceases. And we remember that God is in control. He is with us, no matter how bad the situation may be. We aren’t alone. Then, hope begins to flood our veins. And answers come.

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                                   “Be still, and know that I am God …”  — Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

The Aborigines have used stillness, as a method of healing, for centuries. Many Native Americans also used holistic ways to treat their ailments. Although there are differences, from one tribe to another, all embrace bio-psycho-socio-spiritual approaches to healing. When practiced, these methods have worked. A century ago, for example, Diabetes was rare among Native Americans. But, today, many young NA have abandoned old traditions including holistic forms of healing. As a result, Diabetes is now a widespread health issue among them.

Modern Medicine also embraces stillness as a new way to treat many chronic illnesses, i.e. anxiety, stress, hypertension, chronic pain, etc. Stillness has the ability to heal. And Stillness Meditation Therapy is one example. It isn’t typical meditation — no technique is required. SMT, as it is also known, focuses on freeing yourself of disruption. It’s goal is to free the mind and provide mental rest. Imagine that, for a moment.

If you are one of the millions who desperately need to rejuvenate, I encourage you to embrace silence. Give in. Let go. Send the kids to see a holiday movie, so you can cherish a couple of quiet hours. Turn off your phone. Take a walk in the woods. Indulge in a relaxing bath. Curl up with a warm blanket … close your eyes. Empty your mind. Breathe. Be still. Immerse yourself in the beauty of it. Stillness is uplifting, healing and amazing. When we are still, we are healing. Our body and mind is recharged. We feel better. Our focus is sharpened. Solutions are found. And our lives are ready to move forward … into the new year. May God Bless!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2913884/

https://www.thewayofmeditation.com.au/blog/aboriginal-stillness-healing/

https://www.womenshealth.com.au/what-is-stillness-meditation

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-deborah-caldwell/stillness-and-rest-an-essential-part-of-health_b_9093048.html

*Photo by Darran Shen on Unsplash

Be Not Afraid …

Fear. It is our most primal instinct — key to our survival. Nothing motivates us like fear. And nothing makes us more uncomfortable. When you have a Chronic illness, you know fear. Some know it all too well. You live with it, daily. In fact, patients with a Chronic illness are three times more likely to develop symptoms of anxiety. Depending upon their diagnosis, as many as 40% can experience mental and emotional distress. It’s a burden, to say the least. 

Living with a Chronic illness is a lot like living on a roller-coaster. There are highs and lows, curves that toss you around and cork-screw days that leave you nauseous. Coping with the upheaval isn’t easy. Sometimes, you grasp for stability and comfort. Symptoms bring an array of problems. Pain alone can be overwhelming. Then there are the other things … medical bills, insurance issues, side-effects to medication, surgery, complications, various types of therapy, your job, family, etc. All bring you more stress … more worry. And, yes, fear. 

What works for one patient may not help another at all. There are no guarantees, with treatment or life. And the unknowing can be hell. The sheer feeling that you have lost control is both irritating and embarrassing. Feelings of uselessness can haunt you. The lack of mobility is scary. Thoughts of disability may keep you awake at night. Some patients don’t want to burden their families. They fear the thought of it. Yet, they need help. Others are facing end-of-life issues and making very difficult decisions. It’s a sobering moment. A daunting task. And many patients fear death itself.

 

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“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”     — Deuteronomy 31:8

 

If you or a loved one is living with a Chronic illness, be not afraid. You are not alone. Though your days may be a struggle and your nights long, scripture teaches us not to worry … to trust in God. He is always with us. I say this, not as a theologian. I offer it, from experience, as a believer. My faith has sustained me, for decades. Without it, I couldn’t live with multiple Chronic illnesses. I couldn’t cope with the throes of it. But through the grace of God, I do so daily. And when fear envelopes me, I turn to Him. I trust in Him. He remains my light through this constant storm … guiding me … giving me the strength to go on … and always reminding me that there is hope for tomorrow. 

If you are struggling to manage your Chronic illness, take a moment to talk to God. Prayer between you and Him doesn’t have to be a formal prayer. It can be done casually, on the fly. Will it ease your fear? Soothe your pain? Medical research on the power of healing prayer has nearly doubled, in the last decade. If the results weren’t positive, they wouldn’t be interested. The Lord knows your suffering and your problems. He knows your heart — your needs (1 Samuel 16:7). He’s waiting. He’s listening. And His peace does bring comfort to the body as well as the soul.

 

 

References:

https://www.psycom.net/chronic-pain-illness-anxiety

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-main-ingredient/200909/the-most-powerful-motivator

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1016/j.ejheart.2008.04.011

https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/can-prayer-heal#1

*Photo by Daniel Gregoire on Unsplash

Kindness Matters …

Our relationships are like the seasons — they change with time. Some grow warmer and others are colder. Some may be harsh. Others are soothing … understanding … and loving. How these relationships evolve, or change, in part depends on each of us. Why?We change, i.e. our health, our jobs, our priorities, etc. Often times, that change can effect our relationships — even strain them. Yet, our relationships are an important part of our lives. And that is all the more reason for us to be proactive.

As winter approaches, we pull out our winter clothes. We may even buy a new coat, boots, a scarf, or all of the above. We make an effort to prepare. We take the time to consider what is, or may be, needed. As summer approaches, we do the same. Our relationships need that same kind of attention. It doesn’t matter who your relationship is with, i.e. spouse, partner, significant other, caregiver, children, parents, co-workers, etc. All need and deserve consideration.

None of us are the person that we once were. But we can still be our best, despite age or Chronic illness. We can reach out — nurture ourselves as well as our relationships. And we can be all the better for it. But to do so, we need to embrace kindness.

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“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”   —   Proverbs 16:24 (NIV)

One the surface, kindness is the quality of being considerate … generous … friendly. But, often times, it requires courage and strength. Though it isn’t regularly seen as such, kindness is a skill. There are different ways that we can practice kindness. We can look at a person, or group, and identify what they need. When we do so, we strengthen the relationship between us and them. Simple gestures, i.e. a smile, a hug, offering a compliment, or running an errand are acts of kindness. A card, an email, or a phone call are also excellent ways to extend kindness. Sometimes, the most helpful acts of kindness are candid and direct. They show our concern as well as providing much needed honesty and insight.

Kindness is linked to happiness and contentment — ours and someone else’s. It has  psychological and spiritual levels. Kindness promotes our gratitude and our empathy. It can encourage the will to live and provide hope to those who feel life is hopeless. Kindness has the ability to connect us, one-on-one or as a group. Kindness can bond an entire community — strengthen it. And Kindness can be good for our own health.

If you, a loved one, or neighbor has a Chronic illness, kindness can be a godsend. Talk with them. Talk to their caregiver, or yours. Talk candidly. Tell them what you need. Ask what they need. There is no shame in asking for help. Nor does it take a great deal of effort to offer some. Little things can and do mean a lot. All of us, chronically ill or well, need help from time to time. Last, but not least, remember to be kind to yourself. Love yourself.

Self-kindness has the ability to promote better health, in patients who are chronically ill. Most Chronic diseases involve pain, fatigue and/or a decrease of functioning. Self-kindness will allow a patient to focus on the positives instead of the negatives. It enables all of us to better cope with stress, setbacks, etc. Self-compassion, or self-kindness, is even being considered for use in clinical settings. Like optimism, it’s a positive thing. And the rewards are worth reaping.

May God bless.

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mdedge.com/jcomjournal/article/146122/role-self-compassion-chronic-illness-care

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-nourishment/201711/why-random-acts-kindness-matter-your-wellbeing

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/help-chronic.aspx

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pieces-mind/201712/the-importance-kindness

*Photo by Almos Bechtold on Unsplash

On Eagle’s Wings …

Most of us grew-up with the notion that when you were sick, you went to the doctor and you got well. Life returned to normal. But once you are diagnosed with a Chronic illness, that simple concept goes out the window. In your new normal, you regularly go to the doctor/s … you regularly take medications, sometimes therapy, surgery, exercise, dietary changes, etc., but you are never where you once were. The symptoms remain. Pain is often times as common as breathing. And being well translates to effectively managing your disease. Despite your best efforts, there are setbacks. Those with a Chronic illness will tell you that it’s inevitable. And with time, the struggle can take its toll. Some become anxious and/or depressed. Others just want to give up. Medical science has accomplished a lot, but courage and strength can’t be prescribed. These essential tools must come from within.

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“… but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  — Isaiah 40:31

Often times, a patient wonders, “Why me?” They may look at their life and try to find where the mistake was made. While lifestyle can contribute to some Chronic illnesses, there are many patients who have a long history of maintaining a healthy one prior to their diagnosis. Genetics and environment also play a role. In essence, there are no guarantees in life.

My uncle was diagnosed with Hypertension, around the age of 30. He successfully managed his condition, for years. In his late-50s, he retired … sold his home in the suburbs of Chicago … purchased a farm near Nashville, TN … and left the Big City grind for an easier gentry. He had chickens, ducks, horses, a well-stocked fishing pond, etc. When he and my aunt chose country-living, they went all in. Gardening. Quilting. Relaxing on the porch. It was a peaceful existence, surrounded by natural beauty. Admired. Perhaps, envied. Yet, a year later, he was stricken with a massive stroke. Left with partial paralysis, he found himself in a wheelchair. And, as he confessed to me nearly a decade later, he wondered, “Why me?” The really wondrous thing was that, according to him, he heard a voice say, “Why not you?” Was this a Divine conversation? Maybe. But, in that moment, he realized that he wasn’t alone. He had his faith to sustain him — to help confront his situation. There were millions struggling with medical conditions, the loss of body function, etc. His new normal wasn’t a rarity. It was a curve-ball in life. And he chose to make the most of it, which is exactly what God wants us to do.

Consider, for a moment, the Book of Job. It details the long-suffering of a good man. In my humble opinion, the diagnosis of any Chronic illness isn’t a matter of punishment. It’s a part of life that eventually finds most of us. It’s a time of change, like the seasons. But it is also an opportunity to inspire, to grow, even to thrive. My faith has taught me many things. One is that the Lord will not give me more than I can handle. So, even when a setback comes, I am comforted in that knowledge. Prayer has been a vital part of my daily living, for decades. Through it, I have been uplifted — strengthened emotionally, physically and spiritually. Inspired. And, yes, guided. I have been given the courage to confront my fears, work through my frustrations and move forward. Through the worst of times, prayer has led me — allowed me to soar. And I thank God for that.

Many religions rely on the power of prayer. They believe in the use of prayer for comfort, healing, strength and peace-of-mind. They know that it works, though the how and why may remain a mystery. Buddhists use meditation. Roman Catholics use the rosary. Protestants have individual prayer and Prayer Groups. Muslims use Du’a (personal prayer for healing). Jews turn to dovening and the Mi Sheberakh (a healing prayer for the sick). All are united by the belief that comfort and healing can be attained through sincere prayer.

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of medical studies involving prayer. Even the NIH (National Institutes of Health) has funded one. Thirty years ago, the idea would have been unheard of by the scientific community. But time, as well as data, has a way of changing things. Even those who are not devout, can understand positive results. Prayer, in its various forms, has the ability to relax the patient. Stress is lessened, or eliminated. This in turn promotes healing. The limbic system of the brain, responsible for basic emotion, instinct and mood, is also positively effected. This aids the patient’s mental health. Who exactly gets the credit for the healing remains a matter of debate. Still, the facts remain. Prayer can play a significant role in a patient’s health and well-being.   

When you are diagnosed with Chronic illness, you are in it for the long-haul. If you are a religious person, you will probably turn to your faith for strength and courage. You may even find yourself struggling with it. That too, I think, is natural — human. So, set your hesitation aside and talk to your clergy about it. You won’t be the first, or the last. Others, overwhelmed and searching, may find faith at this time. You too are neither the first, or the last. It might also be the perfect time to join a a Bible Study group, volunteer at a Food Bank, etc. Sometimes, when you see the difficulties of others, it lends perspective. And many religious organizations even have support groups, for those who are living with Chronic illness. This is especially helpful for patients who live alone, or lack a solid support system at home.

Despite your affliction, or your views toward prayer, always embrace optimism. On the difficult days, I know that’s a lot to ask. But remember … an optimistic mindset is a key component for managing your condition. It’s uplifting. Encouraging. Motivating. Optimism is a confidence — a sheer hopefulness — that allows you to fight another day. One that somehow strengthens your body as well as your resolve. If you are anything, as a patient who is living with a Chronic illness, you are a warrior. We all are. Keep fighting the good fight!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1070773/

https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/can-prayer-heal#1

https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/study-cancer-patients-with-strong-religious-or-spiritual-beliefs-report-better-health.html

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/dec/30/power-of-prayer-healing-and-therapeutic-prayer-in-/

*Photo by Keo Mowat on Unsplash