Tag Archives: illness

10 Unusual Reasons You Might be Feeling Sick All the Time

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Surviving without air conditioning when it is hot and humid is nearly impossible, especially in some regions. Keeping an AC running requires more than just the right appliance; it demands maintenance, which a lot of people neglect. An air conditioning unit that does not receive proper servicing not only spikes the power bills but poses health risks as well. It may be surprising to learn that you may be feeling a bit under the weather because of your home’s cooling system. Continue reading

Protect Yourself From Food Bourne Illnesses

Screen shot 2013-12-19 at 1.31.38 AMEarlier this year the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a report about Salmonella poisoning in various imported spices that people use every day. Shortly thereafter there was a nationwide panic when Salmonella was found in grocery store chicken. With these various threats it is important to know what you’re dealing with and how keep yourself safe from salmonella and other food-borne illness. And it is especially important to us that you understand why you never have to worry about such contaminants in Wakaya Perfection products.

What exactly is Salmonella?

The FDA defines Salmonella as a group of bacteria that is the most common cause of food poisoning. Symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea and fever, usually last 4-7 days and many can get better without treatment. However, symptoms can be more severe or lead to more serious illnesses in older adults, infants and those with chronic illnesses.

What are the sources and how do you prevent it from being in your food?

Salmonella is usually found in uncooked eggs, poultry and meat. It can also be found in unpasteurized milk, juice, cheese, raw fruits and vegetables, and spices that have been processed improperly.

The primary ways to avoid Salmonella are to make sure that your meat and egg products are thoroughly cooked. Salmonella is usually killed off at 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Also make sure to wash your hands properly before handling any raw food products, especially if you are interacting with animals or their treats beforehand. Germs can easily transfer from humans to the food, and if not heated properly can lead to Salmonella poisoning.

Be careful with your cooking utensils as well. Don’t use the same utensils to handle raw products that you do when your food is finally cooked. Check your labels and packaging for refrigeration protocols and follow them. Food that is not properly refrigerated before cooking can also carry the bacteria.

Why are you safe with Wakaya Perfection?

First of all, all of our products are 100% organic which means there are absolutely no outside pesticides or chemicals used in their processing. They are watered completely by Fijian natural rains – no man-made irrigation is used to cultivate our ginger plants.

Once our ginger is ground it is cooked for many hours in a sealed convection oven and immediately processed in our USDA NOP certified full stainless steel sealed suction powder processing machinery that allows no human contact or surrounding air contamination.. It is totally enclosed in the system for the entire process.

The packaging is immediate with no delays and no contaminants entering the system at any stage. The proprietary process is strictly controlled at every stage for immediate processing and not exposed to open environmental and human pollutants.  Our state of the art USDA NOP certified organically registered factory facility is our consumers’ guarantee of quality, purity and superior hygiene at all times.

Building Healthier, Happier Communities Through Functional Medicine

₪ Cobija: Corporativa al atardecer - Flickr Meeting at Tusk ₪With Mark Hyman, MD and Lissa Rankin, MD

We live in an era in which individualism is rewarded, and collectivism is seen as weak. We raise our children to be independent and self-reliant. It’s so hard for us to ask for help. Interestingly, we also practice medicine this way. We teach our future medical leaders to separate the body into individual disconnected parts. We allow patients to believe that their distinct symptoms are totally isolated and unrelated. If this kind of medical system supported better outcomes, creating healthier and happier communities, then it would be acceptable, and we wouldn’t even need to discuss this. But the simple fact is it isn’t working, and we are now at the brink of a health revolution through which medical visionaries are now working together to bring in a new era of living well and feeling great.

In my work as a functional medicine doctor, I see the patient as a whole person instead of merely as an assortment of disconnected parts. The body is an extraordinary system; every part is connected via an intricate web of body, mind, and spirit. In functional medicine, we seek the root causes of illness so that we can address the underlying triggers that have thrown the patient off balance. In order to heal properly, the whole patient requires attention; that includes the emotions, thoughts, and spirit of a human being—not just the physical body.

Throughout the many years I’ve worked with my patients using this model of medicine, I’ve been astounded by the resilience of the human body. It’s humbling to realize that, even though I was taught in medical school to believe that a patient’s recovery is completely in my hands, in fact, it is the patient who has the most power. My job is to be a facilitator who gently assists the body back to its natural state of health. I do this by encouraging a paradigm shift in the hearts and minds of patients. We discuss the role of whole foods, water, air, light, rest, movement, sleep, rhythm, connection, love, meaning, and purpose. (For more information on the seven fundamental systems in your body that can bring back balance, see my book The Blood Sugar Solution).

We need doctors who understand how well the body reacts when the whole system is treated, not just the symptoms. One doctor in particular, Lissa Rankin, has made a career out of a calling she felt to serve her patients on the most authentic level possible. She inspires me along with the thousands following her online health and wellness community, Owning Pink. She began this site as her own way of revolutionizing healthcare, encouraging people in need of healing to own all the many facets that make them whole: their relationships, their professional lives, their creative lives, their spiritual lives, their sex lives, their environment, their physical and mental health, and more.

Lissa’s work is functional medicine at its best, addressing the truth that we all need each other to lean on, to help heal, to connect, and to flourish. Lissa and I share the belief that there is nothing more productive and exciting than a collective of people united together to combat feelings of loneliness and powerlessness in the face of illness. Because she and I feel a special calling to do this work, I wanted to invite her to share with us some insight into her unique approach to healing. Here are some questions I asked her followed by her comments.

Dr. Mark: On your blog site LissaRankin.com and on your community site, Owning Pink, I see a lot of importance placed on finding one’s truth and authentic nature. I, too, encourage my patients to reflect on how to live with more purpose. How can synchronizing this authentic energy with another person help heal a broken mind, body, and spirit?

Dr. Lissa: In my first TEDx talk, I introduced a radical new wellness model, which I also discuss in my upcoming book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself . The wellness model is based on a “cairn,” those stacks of balanced stones you tend to see marking trails and sacred landmarks. In the “Whole Health Cairn” wellness model, the foundation is not the body, as it is in so many wellness models that suggest that a healthy body is a prerequisite for a healthy life. Instead, I think the foundation is the part of you I call your “Inner Pilot Light.” Call it your intuition, your inner doctor, or your highest self, this part of you always knows what’s true for you, even if the rest of you may not want to face your personal truth because it often commands change, and change scares us.

Your Inner Pilot Light is always radiant, never extinguished, 100% authentic, and will never lead you astray. I help people tap in to their Inner Pilot Light here, but as healers, I believe that’s one of the most essential parts of our jobs, not to dictate what our patients should do or prescribe the one and only way to optimal health, but to help our patients tap in to their own unique Inner Pilot Light, so they can make treatment and life decisions that are in alignment with the core of who they are. When you make decisions from this place of truth, the body tends to naturally come back in to alignment with its natural state of health.

Read the rest of the interview on my website, DrHyman.com!

5 Ways to Hit it Out of the Park When Life Throws You a Curveball

Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 4.50.15 PMBy Dr. Andra Brosh

You know as much as I do that life doesn’t always go as planned. You can fantasize and dream about how you would like things to go, but the harsh reality is that your very existence on this earth is tenuous, and your reality is founded on unpredictability, not certainty.

Once this simple truth is accepted, you can focus less on manipulating and controlling how your life unfolds, and prepare yourself for the inevitable curveball coming your way. You may have already been up to the plate to receive one, but just like in baseball, you never really know when the next one is coming, so it’s always great to be prepared.

When something happens in your life that you didn’t expect, or thought never would, it’s likely to knock you off your feet. You might get blindsided by an infidelity or divorce, diagnosed with a life threatening illness, or realize that you will never be able to have children. Losing a job, your home, or a loved one will also rock your world to the point of capsizing.

These life challenges, and the many others that can strike at any time, are really hard to contend with, but they don’t have to wreck you. Whether you know it or not, you have been training your whole life to deal with these kinds of struggles. Just like your ancestors, you inherently possess the skills you need to deal with anything that gets thrown your way. You are wired to survive.

If you have already survived a serious life challenge then you know what to expect. This is where hindsight is truly 20/20, so be sure you learn what you need to know from the past so you can apply it in the future.

If you are just stepping up to bat, and realize at this moment that a curveball is headed your way, then it’s time to hunker down, and get ready to swing. If you are still “on the bench” and haven’t had to play ball yet, this is the perfect time to start thinking about how you will handle things when they arise.

Here are 5 ways to hit that inevitable curveball out of the park:

1. Take Pause

The experience of dealing with an unexpected life challenge is filled with frenetic energy, and a sense of urgency. Instead of making hasty decisions and going full throttle toward trying to solve the issue, take a moment to digest what has happened. Slow it way down, breathe, and sit with the reality of your situation before taking any action. Hitting the pause button is always a good idea when overwhelm and chaos are omnipresent because it creates a space for thoughtful reflection, better choices, and a more engaged process.

2. Remain Present

Worry will become your silent partner when you are dealing with a curveball. Projecting into the future is a natural human response to stress and uncertainty, and the human brain is always looking for what’s “next”. You may also become riddled with regret about what you could have or should have done in the past to prevent your present situation. Getting stuck in the past or the future doesn’t serve you in these times of crisis. The goal is to remain in the present, even though this feels counter-intuitive.

3. Maintain Integrity

It’s at times like these when your character and values are put to the test. Even if you are the most patient, diligent, and high-functioning individual on the planet, you are sure to become lost, disconnected and a blubbering version of yourself at a time of crisis. Staying true to what you believe, and paying attention to how you want to come across as you move through any transition will ground you in maintaining your most authentic self.

4. Reach Out

For most people seeking help at a time of crisis is justified, but you may have a hard time asking for support even in your darkest moment. It’s common to believe that you can solve all of your problems on your own, but you actually show greater strength by seeking the counsel of a professional. There are always going to be people who can offer wisdom and experience beyond what you can give yourself. Take advantage of the many great healers out there, and give yourself the gift of growing and learning from what feels like a rock bottom. Getting the tools you need to rise above will ensure that you come out the other side better then when you went in.

5. Be Honest

A strong defense against the pain of disappointment that accompanies being hit by a curveball is denial. Not accepting your circumstances, or trying to blame the world for what is happening to you is a way to avoid what you are dealing with. You may feel a sense of shame around your situation making it harder to find the self-compassion you deserve. Remember that you are not alone, seek out others who have experienced a similar fate, and acknowledge that like everyone else in the world, your humaneness makes you immune to a perfect existence.

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picofme2Dr. Andra Brosh is a Clinical Psychologist, writer, and thought leader. Her unique perspectives on life, love and connection stem from her own personal wisdom, and her knowledge of psychology and philosophy. Dr. Brosh’s work is founded on the fundamental truth that we are all wired to be relational beings, and that with the right guidance and tools everyone can find happiness and fulfillment in their interpersonal relationships.

Deepak Chopra: Can We Reduce Physical Pain?

One of the most common questions people ask is: Are there non-prescription ways of decreasing pain? Most people don’t want to experience pain, whether physical or emotional, but sometimes the common methods we have for dealing with it are insufficient. In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak addresses this classic concern and offers several tips for reducing physical pain.

Some tips for minimizing physical pain:

  • Any form of physical exercise will reduce pain in almost every chronic illness because exercise gives you an endorphin boost and endorphins have pain reliving properties.
  • Practicing yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques is very important and they are all extremely useful when tackling pain.
  • Laughter, music, positive social interactions and gentle massages are also good ways to deal with pain.
  • Common misconceptions are that drinking alcohol or smoking will ease pain but they actually make it worse.

What methods do you have for reducing pain? Let us know in the comments section!

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and check out Deepak’s book, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul!

How to Balance pH for the Best Body You’ve Ever Had

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Summer is a season of renewal, and a great time to highlight pH balance, a critical factor in overall health, including maintaining a healthy digestive system, glowing skin, and a strong immune system. Like most things in life, it’s all about balance – in this case, between the level of acidity and alkalinity in your body. If your pH (short for potential of hydrogen) balance is too far in one direction or the other, it can be detrimental to your health.

I enlisted the help of  Dr. Jeffery Morrison to explain the specifics around pH balance, as well as easy dietary choices that help to correct imbalances. A leader in the Wellness field, Dr Morrison is a medical doctor as well as a nutrition expert. He heads up the Morrison Center in NYC and is the author of the book “Cleanse Your Body, Clear Your Mind.

What is the importance of the acid/alkaline balance in the body?

Dr. Morrison: Our bodies work the best when we are able to maintain the proper pH. When the body is too acid or too alkaline, it doesn’t work optimally.

What causes an imbalance?

JM: Our bodies are very efficient at keeping the acid/alkaline balance, but if we carry too much stress and our acid levels get too high, then the body needs to work extra hard to maintain that balance, leaving little energy for healing and repair.

When the body is too acidic, the cells become deprived of the oxygen they need to efficiently deliver nutrients and energy throughout the body. To buffer the acid in our blood and maintain a proper pH, the body also needs to steal calcium from our bones and magnesium from our cells. That is why people who are acidic over an extended period of time tend toward osteoporosis, low energy, and shorter life spans.

If too much acid can hurt us, why do we need it?

JM: We need the acid to help fight infection. We tend to become acidic when we are fighting an acute infection like a cold or the flu or healing a wound. The body’s response to infection is inflammation. Temperature and circulation increase while oxygenation decreases; it’s like localized chemotherapy. As a consequence, acid levels increase.

This is why people tend to get really tired when they are sick. Cells need oxygen to make energy and the acidic environment inhibits the cells from getting that oxygen. This is a healthy response. We want this to happen. This is how our bodies heal. However, when this acute reaction becomes a chronic one, then we get into trouble.

What steps can people make to create more alkalinity in their body?

 JM: Eating the wrong food plays a big role in how acidic we are. People who eat processed food, drink soda, and eat candy tend to be more acidic. Other things that play a role in our pH levels are chronic infections, long-term use of prescription medications, too much protein, and stress.

food-chartWhat foods are best to eat to promote optimum pH?

JM: The best foods to boost your alkalinity are leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, celery, and swiss chard, as well as some fruits. To shoot for an optimum pH, people should eat a diet that is 70% alkaline and 30% acidic. Acidic foods like nuts, grains, and proteins are an essential part of your diet but should make up only 30% of your food intake.

What about non-dietary factors?

JM: The other things that people can do to reduce the acidity in their bodies are moderate exercise, stress management, and to drink plenty of water.

How can people find out if they are acidic?

JM: There is a very simple test that anyone can pick up in a health food store: pH Balance strips. You can choose either urine or saliva, but I feel that urine is more accurate. Use the strips with your first morning urine. If you test below a 5, then it is likely that you are acidic.

What will people feel when they switch over from being too acidic to becoming balanced?

JM: When your body’s pH normalizes, you will feel more energized and less achy. You will sleep better, your mind will be clearer, your skin color will improve, and your ability to fight off infections will increase. This is because your cells will have proper oxygenation which will allow your body to function at its highest level.

For more inspiration, here are 4 pH-balancing recipes:

Kale Chips
pH Balance Juice
Berry Kale Smoothie
Beet Fennel Soup

 

Chart credit: Better Body Choices

Originally published on my website, Tapp’s Tips

The Kaiut Method: Yoga For People Who Hate Yoga (Part 1)

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By Kiri Westby, with Ed and Deb Shapiro, who all attended the yoga class described here.

Doing yoga with Francisco Kaiut is doing yoga from the inside out. In fact, to say the word “doing” is already too active, too aggressive, as it’s more of an un-doing.

I am someone who has never felt very comfortable in a modern yoga class. Plagued by an inner clamoring about how inflexible I am, convinced I am doing it wrong and actually hurting myself in the process, I am often too intimidated to ask for support. When I do get talked into going to yoga, I put on my tough face and prepare to be sore for the following week. So that is how I came into the Kaiut yoga classes in Boulder last winter, prepared for a truly uncomfortable experience. Instead, I found something refreshingly different and even liberating…and everyone in the crowded room felt it too.

The Kaiut approach to yoga is inclusive, specifically catered to your body and very personal. Ever wonder what it would be like to have your favorite Chiropractor in yoga class with you? Well, Francisco Kaiut is a trained Chiropractor with a background in cranial sacral, polarity therapy, Tibetan Buddhism, and Hatha Yoga. He has used his in-depth understanding of the body, as well as years of research and experience within traditional schools of yoga, to develop his unique approach, which we can only call Kaiut Yoga (and why not? He invented it!).

“Each person’s body is aging differently from the moment we are born.” Francisco explained. “Even in the womb we are favoring one side or the other. So we have to pay very close attention to each individual’s body, to see where they have developed rigidity over the years and where we need to focus our efforts.” Specializing in addressing complex injuries and chronic pain, students travel to Brazil from all over the world to learn this unique method of yoga and experience real healing.

For me, the enticing thing about Kaiut yoga is that its devotees are not typical über-athletes doing extreme exposes, but rather an assortment of folks from all walks of life, young or old, skinny or fat, who are suffering from chronic pain and discomfort in their bodies. “Finally!” I admitted, “I have found my people in the yoga world.”

In class, Francisco uses his more seasoned students to demonstrate preliminary positions, asking everyone to abandon their mats and come up close to see the form he wants you to begin with. But by the time he and his partner, co-founder Luciana Ross, have finished fine-tuning each person’s positioning, looking around the room one might think 50 different classes were taking place.

“We have to make the poses fit the person, and not the other way around. There is no one place where the leg or the arm has to be in order to garner the benefits,” Luciana explained. “It’s very important to constantly move around the room and connect with each student to attend to their unique needs. Each person should feel like they are giving their body exactly what it requires.”

Eco-Activist Zoë Tryon is a Kaiut Yoga devotee. She spoke with me about what makes this style unique. “I have been a student of yoga for over 20 years, trying many different modalities. What deeply impressed me, and created significant change for me when I found Kaiut yoga, was the truly holistic nature of the approach and the depth of knowledge that Francisco and Luciana have. They have an uncanny ability to read the body quickly and adapt the yoga specifically. I was able to heal physically but also release many of the emotional issues behind my physical problems.”

Stay tuned for part 2!

Photo credit: Francisco Kaiut

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Join our Be The Change Meditate e-Conference with 30 eclectic meditation teachers, including Marianne Williamson, Congressman Tim Ryan, Sharon Salzberg, Robert Thurman, Gangaji, Joan Borysenko, Seane Corn, neuroscientist Richie Davidson, Roshi Joan Halifax, Tara Stiles, and us, Ed and Deb Shapiro, authors of the conference companion book, BE THE CHANGE. Expect your life to never be the same again!

The One Diet That Can Cure Most Disease: Part 2

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 6.24.34 PMClick here for Part 1.

What if you could cure all your health problems and lose 10 pounds in just 7 days?

That’s an amazing claim, hard to believe for sure, but I have seen this miracle so many times in my practice (and now from all the people who have posted on my website who followed my ideas) that even I am starting to believe it! My true goal is to help people feel better. Period.

Because I once was seriously ill with chronic fatigue syndrome, I know what it’s like to wake up every morning feeling like you can’t go on or to have a thousand and one other minor complaints that lower your capacity to enjoy life. Now, of course, with more serious illness, it may take more than one week to find the cause and the cure (although by using the systems of UltraWellness and functional medicine, it is possible for so many millions with chronic illness to get better over time).

Functional medicine is medicine by cause not symptom. The ONLY way to truly heal chronic disease and address weight problems and disease is to get to the ROOT of the problem, to find the cause, and then get rid of it and help the body heal. And two of the major factors that make people sick and fat are being toxic and being inflamed. So, the secret of the 7 days is to very quickly stop the things that make you toxic and inflamed (sugar, caffeine, alcohol, junk food, processed foods, etc.) and do things that help you detoxify and cool off inflammation (eat whole real foods, stop all potential food allergens, clean out your bowels, deeply relax, and more).

That’s when miracles can occur.

The scientific research supporting the role of inflammation and toxins in illness is overwhelming, but most doctors don’t know how to help their patients deal with it. Think of it as an experiment and try to prove it to yourself. Don’t believe me. I was trained in conventional medicine, practiced it for 10 years, and helped many people using the tools I was trained in—namely, medications and surgery. While I worked in the emergency room, those tools worked amazingly well, bringing people back from the brink of death and relieving suffering. But I realized that I wasn’t helping the tens and tens of millions of Americans (125 million to be exact) who suffer from some type of chronic illness. And that doesn’t include the millions who just don’t feel well.

In fact, I now believe that most people walk around just accepting feeling mediocre—tired, achy, brain fog, memory problems, depression, headaches, congestion, allergies, digestive problems, joint pains, PMS, skin problems—things that may not even be a disease, yet rob them of the possibility of feeling great. Who can say they are fully alive, full of energy, and able to greet the day with joy and enthusiasm? How many of us can really do that?

Well, I know this is possible for most people. And the sad thing is that most people don’t know why they feel less than fully alive and healthy and don’t connect it to their behavior or habits. The key to creating health is figuring out the cause of the problem and then providing the right conditions for the body and soul to thrive. It isn’t taking another medication!

Over the last 20 years of practicing at Canyon Ranch, founding The UltraWellness Center in Lenox, MA, and working with dozens of other leaders in the emerging field of functional and systems medicine, I have found the few simple things that make the most difference for the most people. That is why I write the books I write. But I was overwhelmed by how the lives of people who never even saw me as a patient were changed. When I read these stories, I realized that I could offer what I have been giving to my patients one on one to help them feel great very quickly and lose weight immediately without compromising my true goal of helping people get to the root of their health and weight problems.

And it occurred to me that what I do for nearly every patient who comes to see me is to give them a chance to see just how sick they have been and how powerful making a few simple changes can be in just one week. Once they see by directly feeling how their food choices and their behaviors make them sick—and they experience a taste of UltraWellness—then, they are empowered to make changes that can help them feel great and lose weight for the long term.

The most important things to address at the outset for weight loss and creating UltraWellness are inflammation and toxicity. These are among the two most important causes of chronic disease and obesity. So, I put together a simple program called The UltraSimple Diet Challenge, including all the tricks and tools I have used successfully with thousands of patients for so many years. In one short week, I teach them how to detoxify and to cool off chronic inflammation.

That is The UltraSimple Diet.

I asked many of you in my online community to try it and give me feedback. I was overwhelmed by the response. We had thousands respond but could only accept about 150 into the testing. Even though I know what I recommend is effective, I was very surprised by the power of the program in people who I had never even met or for whom I created a customized plan. It had dramatic effects. We had 131 people complete the program. We asked people to track their medical symptoms—things like headaches, fatigue, digestive problems, congestion, joint pain, depression, and more. In just one week, they had an average of 51.15% reduction in their symptoms. And they lost an average of 5.53 pounds (and many lost over 10lbs) and lost an average of 1.37 inches from their waist and 0.94 inches from their hips!

To me, the weight loss is nice, but it’s not the main objective (it’s a nice side effect and happens automatically if you deal with the underlying roots or causes of illness). The real benefit is the possibility of experiencing UltraWellness, a state of deep and true health and vitality. And it happens so quickly. You don’t need to believe me—just try it for one week. Join me for a webinar on May 29 to learn about how you can join The UltraSimple Diet Challenge that starts in just a few short weeks. It’s only seven days—anyone can do it!

And tell your friends. Pass this along.

I believe that if enough people really get to experience the difference in their health created by one week on The UltraSimple Diet Challenge, it will change them forever. It could create a cultural shift that may be able to fight the overwhelming power of the food and pharmaceutical industry, which controls our health.

Empower yourself, transform healthcare!

 

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com

Coping with Cancer: Join the conversation with Mallika Chopra, Steven Callahan, and more special guests!

For the culmination of our “Aspire to Inspire” series and in celebration of National Cancer Survivor’s Day (June 2) our last hangout will be about Cancer survival. Rich and Annette Leal Mattern will be joining us from Breast Cancer Answers. Steven Callahan who survived being lost at sea 30 years ago and two years ago was diagnosed with Leukemia will also be sharing his story with writer/director Justin Rubin who lost his brother and sister on the same day, 20 years apart, from the same type of brain tumor.

We hope these stories, and all the others from the rest of our Google+ hangout series, inspired you and gave you strength if you are coping with a similar situation. Please tell us your thoughts and share your own stories in the comments section below!

Also check out these beautiful short films by Justin Rubin on his experience losing his brother and sister to the same form of brain tumor, on the same day 20 years apart:

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and help us create dialogues around the issues that unite us all!

Helping Homeless People Die Indoors

Screen Shot 2013-05-28 at 12.33.21 AMThere is one certainty in life – we are all going to die. How and where we die are the only issues.

Will we die quickly or have a lingering death? We don’t know. However, most of us housed people are pretty sure we will die indoors in some health facility or in our own home. In fact, some of us buy insurance so that we are assured of the particular standard of care and facility we prefer in our last days.

However, what about unsheltered homeless people? They live outside and very likely will die outside.

How do I know this? Because over the past several years I have been involved in the end of life care for three homeless friends. I’ve written about Bobby Ojala who passed in late August 2012 and Susan Hunt who died twelve days later in early September. But, Karen Lee Creeden was the first homeless person I helped die indoors.

I first met Karen Lee on July 11, 2010, in Ocean Beach, San Diego, CA. An elderly woman with medium length graying hair pulled back into a rubber band, Karen Lee was sitting on the grass in Saratoga Park. Even from a distance, I could see her distended abdomen.

As I approached her, I wondered how to begin the conversation and decided just to introduce myself, ask her name and inquire how she was doing.

“I’m Karen Lee Creeden,” she said, “and I need size 8 shoes. I just got out of the hospital and I have no shoes.”

“Is that all you need?”

“It would be nice to get some medium-sized warm clothing – it’s cold at night. All I have are the t-shirt and light pants I’m wearing.”

I offered to look for these items, but made no guarantees I could find the needed items in the correct sizes.

Upon leaving Ocean Beach, I called family members and friends who I thought would be sympathetic and would have access to the correct sizes of clothing and shoes. Sure enough, they kindly donated the requested items.

When I delivered these gifts to Karen Lee, she was thrilled. She posed for pictures and had fun modeling her new clothes and tennis shoes. Over and over Karen Lee told me to thank her donors for the much-needed items.

KLC2Res150But what to do about her apparent medical condition? I contacted a psychotherapist friend who suggested I ask Karen Lee if she had a social worker and, if so, whether she would give me permission to speak to the worker on her behalf.

Karen Lee did have a social worker and readily gave me her phone number and permission to discuss her case.

The social worker told me what I suspected; Karen Lee was seriously ill and dying. She said she had paid cabs several times to take Karen Lee to hospital after hospital for end of life care, but the hospitals continued to release her.

I offered to go with a friend and take Karen Lee to a hospital and do what I could to get her end of life care.

The results of my efforts are outlined in the following thank you letter I sent to all of the parties who were involved in Karen Lee’s care until her death 24 days later. My letter is a tribute to all of the people and institutions involved in assuring that Karen Lee, an unsheltered homeless person, died free of pain and indoors. It is also evidence of the steps Karen Lee had to go through to die with dignity indoors.

My thanks again to all of those people who provided end of life care to Karen Lee and to all givers of end of life care everywhere.

“August 15, 2010
Dear Concerned Care Givers and Service Providers,

On July 14th, after consulting with her social worker, my friend and I took Karen Lee Creeden to the local hospital where she received excellent emergency care from the doctor and his wonderful staff. Thank you.

After being admitted to the hospital, Karen Lee was expertly cared for by her attending physician, a hospital social worker, nurses, chaplain and staff. Thank you.

I called the president of Alpha Project and he reassured me that ‘no one dies outside’ because of the Alpha Project Hospice Program. His chief operating officer made herself immediately available. Although we did not make use of these kind offers of help, I thank you for your much-appreciated assurances at that time.

After her stay in the hospital, Karen Lee spent several days in the San Diego Rescue Mission Recuperative Care Unit under the concerned supervision of the residential manager. Thank you.

During her brief stay in the Mission, Karen Lee met with a program representative of San Diego Hospice and Institute for Palliative Care who gently assisted Karen Lee in enrolling in this program. Thank you.

At San Diego Hospice and Institute for Palliative Care, doctors, social worker, patient advocates, nurses, chaplain, staff and volunteers compassionately helped Karen Lee. Thank you.

KLC6Res150I was going to write individual notes of thanks to each of you, but upon reflection, I thought perhaps one note to all of you might be more appropriate because each of you was an indispensable part of the process of helping Karen Lee transition from this life to the next. And I thank you all for being so supportive of me during this time.

Karen Lee was 55 years old when she died. As you may know, for the last ten years of her challenging life, Karen Lee was homeless. However because of your care, Karen Lee lived the last 24 days of her life free of pain and indoors.

While at San Diego Hospice and Institute for Palliative Care, Karen Lee wrote the following words on the patient white board in her room: “Do you love me as much as I love you?”

Witnessing your many kindnesses and genuine compassion, I can answer her question, Yes, you each loved her as much as she loved you.

May God bless you for your compassionate service for people in need.

Very truly yours,

Christine Schanes, JD, PhD”

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