Category Archives: Healing

Bacteria, Risks and the Future of Drugs: An Interview with Filmmaker Michael Graziano

resistance

 

Yesterday we shared the trailer for an amazing new documentary called “Resistance” which uncovers the way the misuse of antibiotics may actually be hurting more than helping.

Today we have creator Michael Graziano’s interview with our Intent staff and he’s sharing the things he learned about the surprising future of antibiotics, his favorite Swedish singer and taking big risks for the sake of following your gut.

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Facing My Ebola Fear

On July 23, gravely ill Liberian-American diplomat Patrick Sawyer flew into Murtala Mohammed Airport. He died at a Lagos hospital four days later, after exposing scores of airline passengers and medical personnel to the Ebola virus.

Ebola had arrived in Nigeria. It has since spread to other areas of the country.

Ebola Virus Particle
Ebola Virus Particle

I live in Lagos but on the day Patrick Sawyer delivered his terrible gift, I was an ocean away. My three children and I were on vacation at my parents’ house in suburban Massachusetts.

It was disconcerting to be far from Lagos when it was in crisis. I read articles about Ebola in the newspaper, watched reports on CNN, and tried to ignore the panicked emails from expat women I know.

My parents urged us not to return to Nigeria. They suggested I enroll the kids in the elementary school down the road, which I attended as a child.

It was tempting. The children could walk to school along the same forest path I had used. My mother would cook delicious Indian meals and my father’s wine cellar would allow me to remain in a continuous state of inebriation. At 41, I would have no responsibilities and could spend my days in the basement hula hooping and taking naps.

My children, however, were sick of America. They missed their father, their friends, and their toys. They were desperate to return. My husband, John, assured us we would stay safe in Lagos, that Ebola in Nigeria could be contained. But it is very unnatural to willingly travel into danger. It takes courage, which I lack.

I couldn’t decide whether to stay or go. And then one day my husband phoned me from Lagos to complain about our housekeeper. He had broached the subject of Ebola with Marie and was annoyed by her response.

“What do you know of Ebola?” John had asked her, intending to discuss precautions to prevent the spread of disease.

“I don’t know him,” Marie replied. “Is he Yoruba?”

“Can you imagine,” John told me, “she thought E. Bola was a man’s name! Has she been living under a rock?”

And that was how I decided it would be safe for us to return to Lagos. If Marie—my barometer for all matters West African—had never heard of Ebola, it must not be a big deal.

The kids and I arrived in Nigeria in mid-August. As we taxied to the gate, the newlyweds beside us slipped on latex gloves.

reaching out for nothing

After deplaning, the passengers queued up in neat lines for body temperature scans. This was the first time I had ever seen thermometers used at an airport or anyone in Nigeria stand in a line without trying to cut to the front.

The ordinarily bustling terminal was silent. It was as unsettling as in the weeks following 9/11 when New Yorkers stopped honking their horns and giving each other the finger. I felt like a cold hand was squeezing my heart. This wasn’t the Lagos I remembered. Was coming back a mistake?

I noticed a number of people pulling out bottles of hand sanitizer and squirting their palms as we cleared customs. Suddenly every surface seemed to be writhing with toxic germs. I wished there was a giant barrel of sanitizer I could dip my children into by the ankles, Achilles-style.

We exited the airport, dropped the suitcases at home then drove around looking for a place to eat. It was 10:00 p.m. on a Saturday night and Lagos was dead. We tried three restaurants but they were all closed.

We ended up at The Radisson, a shiny hotel perched on the lagoon.

IMG_7759

 

I took a seat by the water and waited for my family to join me outside. From my table I had a view of the lobby. I saw a man near the bar lurching back and forth, vomiting. Then his face tipped up and I saw white discharge covering his mouth. At that moment, John and the kids walked by him.

John was stoic. As I saw my husband and children become infected with the Ebola virus, my eyes filled with tears. We had just become a cautionary tale.

My 4 decades on the planet, my 22 year romance with my husband, and my 3 beautiful children were about to be reduced to a handful of hysterical Facebook posts and a few mistakenly pressed thumbs ups.

Then the man straightened and I saw a shiny vacuum in his hand. His back was bucking because he was cleaning. What I had thought was white vomit was a surgical mask over his mouth.

John and the kids joined me at the table. They appeared to be Ebola-free.

Our first week back in Lagos was tense. I considered offering Marie an immediate early retirement because she coughed twice in an afternoon.

Despite my anxiety, we settled back into Nigerian life. My daughter got her hair twisted at the salon. I went grocery shopping. The children spent a happy day at the pool splashing with friends.

My fear began to dissipate. The number of Ebola cases in Nigeria, meanwhile, began dropping.

Aside from the strategically placed dispensers of hand sanitizer that had materialized around Lagos, it was business as usual.

Hand Sanitizer

I had no way to know how severely the Ebola virus would impact our lives when we returned. My decision was a bit impulsive, perhaps, but was borne from a desire to reunite my husband with his children. And I am certain I made the right choice. This is home.

It is in moments of adversity that we see the true worth of a people. Against all odds it seems that this awful virus has been contained here. Nigeria has been tested and I’m proud to say that she has come through with flying colors.

In the end, all I suffered was anxiety, nightmares and sleepless nights. Compared to thousands of our fellow Africans, we got off easy.

photos by: & ,

Better Than Before: Making the Best of Arthritis

arthritisThe Europeans have it all figured out. At the first sign of any aches they don’t take to bed with a bottle of Aleve. No, they head for the thermae of Italy, the baden of Germany, the baths of England, and station thermales of France The treatments at these detox meccas include water (fresh and sea) and mud therapies that promise freedom from pain — not to mention a cleaner liver. And the concept goes back millennia. After all, Spa is not an acronym for Super Place for Aerobics. Rather, it is named after the town in Belgium favored by Peter the Great. (Yes, that Peter the Great!). They are based, instead, on the restorative and healing powers of thermal and mineral springs and imbibing waters that come directly from those sources.

Alas, we in America may be hard pressed to find these types of cures closer to home as there are only a handful of natural hot springs indigenous to this country. And, truth be told, most people don’t even know they exist. Just ask someone in your office to name a liquid that makes you feel really good. I doubt hot, bubbling water would be the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, make mine a kale and celery smoothie — and a Dirty Margarita for The Lawyer.

Does this mean, though, that we have to suffer such inflammatory ailments as arthritis in silence? After all, about 50 million Americans have been diagnosed with one of the seven common forms of Arthritis. Yes, I am one of them. But limited space will not allow me to regale you with stories about my recent hip replacement! (Call me!) Curative spas aside, it is important, therefore, for patients and care givers to understand the potential impact of the disease and how best to manage it. It can be a critical part of making the decisions to make good on your intent to live a healthier lifestyle that is Better Than Before.

Let’s start with learning a little more about the illness itself. For this I turned to Phyllis Crockett, a specialty-trained pharmacist in the Accredo Rheumatoid Arthritis and Inflammatory Disease TRC.

“Arthritis is a complex family of musculoskeletal disorders consisting of more than 100 different diseases or conditions,” she says. “Although common belief is that arthritis is a condition affecting the elderly, two-thirds of people with arthritis are under the age of 65, including 300,000 children. Also, arthritis affects people of all ethnicities.”

According to Crockett the vast majority of sufferers, about 27 million Americans, have what I have, Osteoarthritis (OA), which is characterized by a breakdown of joint cartridge. A vast majority of OA patients are elderly. (But it could be genetic, and the result of what sets in after you’ve sustained an injury! Hellooo!!)

The rest of arthritis sufferers have the more severe form: Rheumatoid arthritis. “Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is characterized by inflammation of the membranes lining the joint. Although it can strike at any age, women are typically diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60, while male patients are usually older. There are about 1.5 million affected individuals in the United States. Finally, Juvenile Arthritis (JA) is a term used to describe many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can affect children ages 16 and younger.”

The disease takes a heavy toll. “Each year, arthritis accounts for 44 million outpatient visits and over 900,000 hospitalizations. In fact, it’s the leading cause of disability in the United States and is a more frequent cause of activity limitations than heart disease, cancer or diabetes. By some estimates, 67 million Americans will have arthritis by 2030.”

So what do we do?

“Managing the disease so that patients can continue to live normal lives is important,” Crockett continues. “Each patient is different and a physician can help determine the best treatment plan, including pain management and managing the symptoms of arthritis.”

She shared with me some tips that she offers her patients, starting with exercise. “It is a valuable tool in the fight against arthritis. OA and RA patients particularly can benefit from both endurance and resistance training.”

Maintaining a healthy weight and protecting against joint injury can help prevent OA. “Every pound of weight lost reduces the pressure on each knee by 4 pounds. Even a small weight loss can be a big help in fighting it.”

Apart from lifestyle modifications, there are also many drug therapies available for arthritis patients—and doctors and specialist pharmacists can help identify the best one for you.

For patients who already are on medication to treat the condition, adherence – taking medications as prescribed – is critical to healthier outcomes.

“But do not self-medicate!” she cautions: “Combining over-the-counter medications with prescription medications can be risky, and can cause side effects such as an increase in GI irritation or a GI bleed. And don’t adjust doses or making changes to the medication regimen without checking with your health care team.”

“Watch for drug interactions: Some common medications like acetaminophen can have a drug-drug interaction with arthritis medications. Limit intake and remember that acetaminophen is often a component in common sinus, cough/cold and pain medications.”

Opt for an anti-inflammatory regimen like the Mediterranean diet – you know the drill, easy on the acidic foods like sugar, white flours, and alcohol, and sticking with leafy greens, whole grains, and lean proteins. “But some foods and beverages can block the effects of arthritis medications,” Crockett concludes. “These include grapefruit, apple and orange juice as well as milk and yogurt. Wait at least four hours after taking medications. Exact times can vary depending on the disease and the treatment. Check with a trained clinician.”

I can assure you from very painful, personal experience that if arthritis does go too far, surgery may be the only option. So if your intent is to help avoid – or at the very least, prolong – this possible outcome, be aware that lifestyle modification and medication may be the answer.

 

Reaching Out For Compassion

Rabindranath Tagore embarrassment of compassion fills your eyes rain on we lucky spaces between potential and the real take my hand and walk togetherAt a weekend workshop I led, one of the participants, Marian, shared her story about the shame and guilt that had tortured her. Marian’s daughter Christy, in recovery for alcoholism, had asked her mother to join her in therapy. As their sessions unfolded, Christy revealed that she’d been sexually abused throughout her teen years by her stepfather, Marian’s second husband.

The words and revelations Marian heard that day pierced her heart. “You just slept through my whole adolescence!” her daughter had shouted. “I was being violated and had nowhere to turn! No one was there to take care of me!” Christy’s face was red; her hands clenched tight. “I was afraid to tell you then, and now I know why. You can’t handle the truth. You can’t handle me. You never could. I hate you!”

As she watched her daughter dissolve into heaving sobs, Marian knew that what she’d heard was true. She hadn’t been able to handle her daughter’s involvement with drugs, her clashes with teachers, or her truancy and suspensions from school, because she couldn’t handle anything about her own life.

At this point, compassion for herself was not only impossible, Marian was convinced it would have been wrong: the horror that Christy endured was her fault; she deserved to suffer.

We’ve all harmed others and felt as if we were bad because of our actions. When we, like Marian, face the truth that we’ve hurt others, sometimes severely, the feelings of guilt and shame can tear us apart. Even when the damage isn’t so great, some of us still feel undeserving of compassion or redemption.

At times like these, the only way to find compassion for ourselves is by reaching out to something larger than the self that feels so small and miserable. We might for instance take refuge by calling on the Buddha, Divine Mother, God, Jesus, Great Spirit, Shiva, or Allah – reaching towards a loving awareness that is great enough to offer comfort and safety to our broken being.

As a Catholic, Marian had found moments of deep peace and communion with a loving God. But, in her despair, she now felt alone in the universe. Sure, God existed, but she felt too sinful and wretched to reach out to him.

Fearing she might harm herself, Marian sought counsel from an elderly Jesuit priest she had known in college. After she’d wept and told him her story, he gently took one of her hands and began drawing a circle in the center of her palm. “This,” he said, “is where you are living. It’s painful—a place of kicking and screaming and deep, deep hurt. This place cannot be avoided, let it be.”

Then he covered her whole hand with his. “But, if you can, try also to remember this: there is a greatness, a wholeness that is the kingdom of God, and in this merciful space, your immediate life can unfold. This pain is held always in God’s love. As you know both the pain and the love, your wounds will heal.

Marian felt as if a great wave of compassion was pouring through the hands of the priest and gently bathing her, inviting her to surrender into its caring embrace. As she gave her desperation to it, she knew she was giving herself to the mercy of God. The more she let go, the more she felt held. Yes, she’d been blind and ignorant; she’d caused irreparable damage, but she wasn’t worthless, she wasn’t evil. Being held in the infinite compassion of God, she could find her way to her own heart.

Feeling compassion for ourselves in no way releases us from responsibility for our actions. Rather, it releases us from the self-hatred that prevents us from responding to our life with clarity and balance. The priest wasn’t advising Marian to ignore the pain or to deny that she’d failed her daughter, but to open her heart to the love that could begin the healing.

Now, rather than being locked inside her tormenting thoughts, Marian could remember the possibility of compassion. When remorse or self-hatred would arise, she would mentally say, “Please hold this pain.” When she felt her anguish as being held by God, she could face it without being ripped apart or wanting to destroy herself.

Two weeks later, when she and her daughter met again in therapy, Marian admitted to Christy – still acting cold – that she knew she’d failed her terribly. Then, gently and carefully taking her daughter’s hand, Marian drew a soft circle in the center of her palm, and whispered the same words the priest had whispered to her.

Upon hearing these words, Christy allowed herself be held, wept, and surrendered into the unexpected strength and sureness of her mother’s love. There was no way either of them could bypass the raw pain of yet unhealed wounds, but now they could heal together. By reaching out and feeling held in God’s mercy, Marian had discovered the compassion that could hold them both.

Whenever we feel held by a caring presence, by something larger than our small frightened self, we too can begin to find room in our own heart for the fragments of our life, and for the lives of others. The suffering that might have seemed “too much” can now awaken us to the sweetness of compassion.

© Tara Brach

Enjoy this talk on Cultivating Compassion 

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photo by: Wonderlane

Discovering God and Belief in the Wake of a Storm

GodEver feel like you’ve lost track of yourself? Like work has taken over? Me too.

As great as the last few years have been getting published and getting out there, there’s also been the growing sense of, “Damn –  where’s my vision?”

So, after giving a workshop with Betsy Chasse (author Tipping Sacred Cows) in Sedona, I took the opportunity to run off to the desert afterwards for some down time.

Now some folks might think Las Vegas is the perfect place to unwind. But I ran the other direction, as far away from the craziness of modern life as possible, straight into the arms of a shaman. Well, not exactly his arms. Unless picking me up off the sofa after a particularly intense ceremony, stripping me naked and shoving me (with admirable indifference) into a steam bath counts. (Not!)

But seriously. Medicine ceremonies are just that. Medicine. And there’s a reason for taking medicine. This world is pretty insane. And doing doing doing all the time can “do me” right off-track. I figure if I’m out giving radio and TV talks and workshops then I’d better have my mind open and my head screwed on as best as possible – for myself and everyone else.

So I went on a vision quest.

I’m not going to pussyfoot around and say my two weeks were nothing but
rosewater massages and a no-alcohol, high-fiber diet. There were no massages and no rosewater (and no alcohol!). I did smoke ayahuasca and poisonous toad venom, however. I rubbed frog poison into my upper arm where the top layer of skin had been burned away with a lighted stick to better absorb the chemicals that would give my body the strength and stamina to undergo the ceremonies. And I was given many visions.

And then, after my week with the shaman, I drove myself deeper into the desert in southern Utah and performed a solo ritual to further integrate what I’d learned. And in the middle of that mind-blowing ceremonial morning a Great Dust Storm with 60 mph winds drove up from the south. And I sat in the storm and let it rage around me, watching my mind do its fandango with all its usual crap until it, too, was driven away and I was left with…

God

The Earth as God

The Universes and all Creation as God

The Body/Worlds as THE PINNACLE of creation

Hmmmm…. you know the whole New Age philosophy about every thing being God? About every thing being One Thing? It’s a great philosophy isn’t it?

Thing is, for 30 years I’ve said, “Everything is God” and not really meant it. Oh, I thought I meant it. But subconsciously? (where it’s all really happening) subconsciously I believed God was really “Out There” and not “down here.” In my deepest mind/heart place I didn’t believe/trust that things—tangible things—were really God at all.

Which meant, unavoidably, that I never thought I was God at all either.

Well, all I can say is: now I know better. And in case you’d like to know what I learned that morning in the desert, here goes:

The Earth is an out-picturing of God.

The Earth and I and all things, peoples, stars, meteors, spiders and crickets, children, old men, motorcycles, galaxies and ice cream are the result of God’s passion for itself… God’s passion to know itself, to see what It can do and create… to see what marvels and spectacles It can spin out of the fabric of Itself.

A divine intelligence, God asks for absolutely nothing … although It craves recognition. It longs for the moment when part of Its creation and thus Itself awakens and says, “OH! I SEE! OH! GOD! This is what I AM! DUH!”

Recognition – it’s what all of Creation is for…

To know SELF. To touch self and caress self and inhale self and make love to self and ADORE SELF, looking around, looking in the mirror, singing glory glory glory alleluia… ringing like a bell with quiet epiphany, realizing everything I gaze upon and touch is me—the old Indian man asking for a dollar in the Giant convenience store parking lot, the little girl running past, the ravens floating overhead, the overloaded semi-truck pulling its load uphill …

It’s all me
It’s all you
We are all one.

One World: Michelle King Robson and EmpowHER

Michelle King RobsonAfter being given an unnecessary hysterectomy at the age of 42, Michelle King Robson saw a dramatic shift in her health. She went into menopause overnight, gained weight, experienced hot flashes, joint pain and memory loss. “I got so sick that I didn’t want to live anymore,” she recalls of the experience.  Her struggles with the procedure and the long road to recovery that followed, lead her to create her website EmpowHER.com

Michelle recently sat down with Deepak Chopra to have a discussion on her experience as part of the One World series on NEWSWIRE.FM.

As Michelle struggled through recovery, she searched for someone who had been through something similar. After visiting hundreds of websites and reaching out to doctors across the country, she couldn’t find a single person who could tell her what to expect, recommend a course of action or even give her any words of encouragement. “I got sick, I got well, and then I got mad and that’s when I decided to start a company.” Michelle explains.  EmpowHER was created to ensure that no woman has to go through the struggles that Michelle went through around her health.

“What happened with me was I didn’t advocate for myself, and most women don’t. We advocate for everybody else…but we don’t do it for ourselves.” She told Deepak for the One World episode. EmpowHER allows women to not only find support when they are dealing with a variety of health challenges; but also helps women (and men alike) take control of their health with condition-specific medical information and access to a dynamic community.

EmpowHER offers resources to women around what questions they should be asking of their healthcare providers and what things they can be doing to advocate for their health. “I wanted to make sure women have valuable information and support because that’s what I was lacking.” This is how EmpowHER’s 24-hour promise was born. Anyone can log into the site, ask a question and they are guaranteed a FREE answer within 24 hours. In this way, Michelle can ensure that no one gets left behind. “We all deserve answers, validation and support around our health.”

As caregivers in most societies, women are taught to put their own wellbeing last. With EmpowHER, Michelle seeks to turn this trend on its head. “It’s ok for you to be first in your life. Because if you’re not first guess what happens? The whole family suffers.” Rather than becoming bitter as a result of her own experiences, Michelle has created the support system and tools she wishes she had. EmpowHER brings credible health information and women together in a safe trusted community. “When you have information, you have the power to change outcomes in your life and every life you touch.”

Since establishing EmpowHER, Michelle has become a nationally-recognized women’s health and wellness advocate spending her time speaking before women’s groups, health care organizations, political leaders, regulatory bodies and the media about women’s health and the importance of women advocating for themselves and their loved ones.

You can see Deepak’s whole conversation with Michelle at NEWSWIRE.FM

Learn more about Michelle and EmpowHER.com: http://www.empowher.com/michelle

Download Michelle’s Free HER Health Toolkit: http://www.empowher.com/toolkit

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