Here Comes Another Year, but Not a New Year: How to Make Yours Happy

As the holiday season winds down and 2021 exhales its last breath, we look ahead to 2022. With the Omicron variant of COVID-19 exploding across the entire United States and many other countries, however, 2022 doesn’t feel like progress or offer a whole lot of happiness. It’s another year, but not a new year. The imprints of 2020 and 2021 cling like droplets on our masks—invisible when we ignore them, debilitating when they invade. How are you protecting your body and nourishing your spirit? As we reflect—yet again—on the upheaval in our daily lives, the relentless cycles of loss, and the uncertainty for tomorrow, can’t we also seek the flickering flame deep within our solar plexus? [...]

2021-12-31T08:53:08-05:00December 31st, 2021|Categories: 2022, COVID-19, Pandemic, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , |

Going outside your comfort zone: When is it worth the risk?

Good morning, sunshine. I didn’t know how desperately I needed you until I did. Your early morning caresses soothe me. Your midday beams energize me. And your steady presence, day after day—here in Hawaii—rejuvenates my spirit and confirms my impulsive decision to escape Minnesota during one of the grayest, dreariest, and iciest January’s on record. I typically love the deep freeze of the Bold North winters—the biting and invigorating crisp air, the resplendently clear blue skies, and the teasing sunshine that sparkles but promises nothing. I just walk faster to keep warm. I had no intention of leaving on a jet plane in search of hope. I’d only just begun to travel again after a low-back [...]

2020-02-08T00:02:18-05:00February 7th, 2020|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: , |

Winter Solstice: Living in the Darkness of Light

Winter arrived early this year. Seven inches of heavy, wet, white fell like a weighted blanket on my November birthday. I typically love the first snowfall of the season, with the transformation from drab brown to feathery white, illuminating the darkness at night. But I wasn’t ready this year. The last big Minnesota snowfall was mid-April, when crocuses and tulips should have been rising out of bed. And I had just started walking again after a fifth major surgery and a broken foot, and I really wanted to rebuild some strength by climbing the hill every day. And now the icy undercoat makes it too risky for my fragile spine, which is rather like the decomposing [...]

2019-12-17T20:43:16-05:00December 17th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|

Why Stress Makes Us Sick

  Well, not all stress makes us sick. Stress can motivate and energize us—it helps us perform better in front of an audience or get psyched for an adventure, like white-water rafting on the Colorado River in chilly November (shout-out to Mike, Eric, and Frederique!) or skydiving from 13,000 feet (“terrifying” and “freeing” says my brave niece, Laura, pictured). Not surprisingly, skydiving triggers a “fight-or-flight” (literally!) stress hormone response. In one study, 39 men and women who tandem jumped for the first time had increases in cortisol, stress catecholamines, inflammatory cytokines (IL-12 and interferon-gamma), and natural killer cell numbers and gene expression. Manfred Schedlowski, a German researcher I heard at a conference way back in 1993, [...]

2019-11-23T22:47:25-05:00November 23rd, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

“What were his symptoms?” was the most frequently asked question after finding out that my four-year-old had leukemia. At first, I was taken aback by the question. Why did it matter? I thought. We were in treatment now, moving on—at laser speed. I had no time to pause, to process the chaotic events leading up to his diagnosis. And yet, the awareness gnawed through my reality that first night in the hospital. In Standing at Water’s Edge, I write: After a day of seeking answers and direction, confusion cornered me. Why did I allow his symptoms to drag on for so long? I admonished myself during those dark, vulnerable hours of solitude and exhaustion. “Two months [...]

2019-09-06T22:38:16-04:00September 6th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|

Are You Resilient?

“The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.”― Robert Jordan, The Fires of Heaven How do you know if you are resilient? Are you able to get through an extreme setback or life challenge by facing the situation head on and accepting it as a new reality, coping with the immediate challenge, then getting through and bouncing back stronger and more capable than before? Or, do you tend to emotionally react, become numb or immobilized, see yourself as a victim of circumstance, or let it define who you are? Or are you somewhere in the middle, as most of us are? Take a free quiz to [...]

2019-08-22T18:47:15-04:00August 15th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|

I’m a Nurse

I’m a nurse. A cancer nurse. “Isn’t it depressing?” ask the innocent, but brave, conversationalists. The patients don’t ask. They know. They see the compassion in our eyes and feel our warm and caring hand on theirs as we expertly assess, treat, teach them new skills, problem solve, and advocate for them. We listen for what’s not said as much as for what is said. We shepherd them through the complex healthcare system that increasingly demands their own self-advocacy. And yet, for all we give, we get more in return. “No,” I always reply. “It’s my patients who have taught me how to live.” I’ve been saying this for thirty years. And I have heard other [...]

2019-07-08T17:32:34-04:00July 8th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|

Are You a Survivor?

Are you a survivor? Do you know a survivor? We are all survivors of something. Illness is a universal human condition, and most of us have survived some acute or chronic ailment. Or we are a caregiver—surviving together—for someone living with a serious illness such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, liver or lung disease, mental illness, addiction, paralysis, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Lyme disease, or other chronic inflammatory, autoimmune or immune pathologies. And, of course, we can be a survivor of other adverse life events, such as trauma, abuse, violence, war, imprisonment. The list seems endless, and adverse life events can happen at any time in one’s life. My oldest son is a childhood [...]

2019-07-08T17:36:57-04:00July 7th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|

Having Hope

What does it mean to have hope? To expect something positive, meaningful, and affirming. Is everyday hope different from the hope we feel when faced with serious illness or disability? In the year before my son was diagnosed with leukemia, I did a research study asking thirty-two adult patients with cancer what gave them hope. It was a qualitative study—my team interviewed patients four times over eighteen months, and then we analyzed all of the interviews to extract themes and commonalities. We found five themes, as shown in the figure. The men and women, who were at various stages of treatment and survivorship, found hope by living in the moment, relying on their own inner resources [...]

2019-07-08T17:37:25-04:00July 6th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|
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