Category Archives: health

Finding Gratitude in Belonging

I am currently engaging in significant rounds of multiple chemotherapies in order to save my life. This is a new experience for me. BUT, what is most impressive right now are the various people who are stepping up to help me! I am so grateful for their kindnesses. They are driving me to appointments, bringing food, offering to clean my home. We are engaging in meaningful and deep conversations together by phone, text, email, and/or in person. People are serving on standby for whatever I might need. WOW! This outpouring of good will from so many different people is touching my heart daily. Of course my family and dear friends are near and always helpful, but people I do not know very well are genuinely assisting me regularly. Since I am an introvert this is a new experience for me.

I feel such gratitude to all these people and want to let them know how much they are helping me!

This concept/feeling of Belonging is wonderful! We all belong to many different groups of people during our lifetimes: family, friends, neighbors, professional associations, churches, community groups, social media groups, friends of family’s friends, post readers, artist groups, groups of persons with disabilities, sports groups, and strangers we meet at various medical appointments etc.

My sincere gratitude and peace of mind these days is emerging through belonging to these groups!

Belonging is the best medicine!

Belonging is causing me to heal, feel great joy, and deep gratefulness.

I know I am not alone on this journey. I belong!

Thanks everyone for going with me to the unknown. I appreciate you more than you will ever know.

#gratitudeultra

Finding Gratitude In A Cancer Diagnosis

After five years without my cancer returning, it is back! In four days I begin an intense round of multiple chemotherapies. Surgery is not an option for me this time. Chemo seems to be the only option now.Thus, I search for the courage for what I am about to face. I make last minute arrangements to prepare my mind, body, and spirit to begin to walk the new pathway to my future.

I feel fortunate to be a Ph.D. researcher as I use my skills to find, analyze, evaluate, argue, and describe the various courses of action available to me and my doctors. One of my areas of expertise is in cultural understanding of various groups, people, social classes, ethnic communities, and so forth to learn about and try to understand the value systems and choices people make throughout their lives. I can tell you that age, gender, cultural backgrounds, and various norms are readily observable within Western medicine in contrast to global medical choices. With a minor in statistical design, I am greatly dismayed when reading various medical peer reviewed journal articles, and when attempting to hold discussions with oncologists and other medical professionals. Answers to my simple questions regarding treatment outcomes are not readily available it seems. I do not have adequate time or resources to pursue inquiries into the various companies underwriting and sponsoring some treatment options, and clinical trials available to me.

On the other hand, I am also blessed to have been raised by an old fashioned Baptist minister, who taught me to have faith in God, to go to the scriptures for guidance, and to accept that everything in my life is according to God’s Master Plan. During this time I draw my gratitude from my heart versus my head, for which I feel extremely grateful and at peace. Daily, I read the various poems my mother wrote within ahouseinsideofme.com. Her ministry to the various families within my father’s churches offers guidance and gives me peace and understanding at this time.

Being the analytical person that I am, I have been thinking about patterns throughout life. For example, I do not think that anyone has a perfect life. Life seems to regularly present all of us with variances, for example, each day begins with a sunrise and ends with a sunset; every person experiences a birth and also their death; the tides in the ocean are governed by the gravitational dance between the Earth, Moon, and Sun to give us daily ebb and flow, and/or high tide or swells versus a shallow sandbar or reefs.

So it goes with cancer it seems. One discovers it and removes it through surgery, chemo, radiation, and various other treatments and joy follows with each test documenting no evidence of disease; yet apparently those little cancer cells typically like to reappear with a reoccurrence, and thus the cycle, i.e., remission and return which causes one to experience joy and sadness alternating throughout their life. We ring the bell at the end of a treatment interval and we reserve an infusion chair several months or years in the future. These variances are cyclic patterns of repetitions so often experienced by persons who are visited by the big “C” during their life.

For me, I have determined to find gratitude through my cancer diagnosis through my understanding of the above mentioned types of cycles experienced each and every day throughout one’s life. To be alive means total acceptance of variances during each and every day one is living. Just as the beauty of the colors of the sunrise always fade each day and the night blackens the sky; the joy of beating back and taming each cancer cell fills one’s heart with hope and expectation all the while, in the back of one’s mind lingers the anticipation of new cells revisiting to begin the cycle again.

My cells are visiting me again at this time. Soon I hope to initiate further action to invite them to leave me with hope. Thus, I find gratitude in my recent cancer return, similar in fashion to watching the waves in the ocean and each sunrise and sunset.

Be grateful!

#Gratitudeultra

Begin YOUR Climb to a Joyful Life on #MicheltorenaHeartStairs, With Gratitude

My dear friend introduced this hidden staircase in Los Angeles, in the Silverlake neighborhood, as I set new goals for my life. Standing at the bottom of the staircase, I noted there were 40 steps to the top. The number 40 is a special number for life, so my goal is to move up the staircase one step at a time as I reach new goals.How ’bout YOU? I encourage you to climb for joy as well.

Those of you following my postings know that I believe in serendipity. As we drove away from the #Micheltorena neighborhood, we talked about all the special relationships we discovered during our visit. For example:

  • Soon I will have a procedure to insert a #port near my HEART! How lovely to see the #hearts on the stairs as well as to climb up the #HEARTSTAIRS! So cool!
  • If one reflects upon this location from a SPIRITUAL perspective, you might focus on the number 40, and recall one story of Jesus who was alone for 40 days before he was crucified. Now I am focusing on 40 day events, whether scriptural, social, weather related etc. I have found that when alone, I reflect on life deeply and find peace. As I am about to begin chemo, deep reflection is my thing these days.
  • Importantly, because of the visit to the #HeartStairs, I am making a list of 40 objectives for health and life to build a bucket list. Starting on such today…
  • If one visits this neighborhood as a SOCIAL goal, you will learn that this spot is nearly the most posted photo on social media (#Instagram). Something HERE is very special and attractive, drawing people to this space. I wonder why?
  • As a dog lover, I enjoyed a cup of coffee at the #MuddyPawCoffeShop in Silverlake, a couple of shops down from the #HeartStairs. Their motto is, #Have A Cup, Save A Pup. The proceeds from all purchases at this coffeeshop help to rescue pups. See the photos below which capture the lovely outdoor dining area for owners and their dogs. How wonderful, at least I think so, to find a special spot for me and my pup!

So,… I invite you to check out this location online or in person. Join with me as we climb to our joyful lives in the future.

As always, BE GRATEFUL and LIVE YOUR LIFE to the FULLEST!

#MuddyPawCoffeeShop #HaveACupSaveAPup #SilverlakeCA #LosAngeles

#gratitudeultra

Grateful To Find Comfort When In the Valley

It is hard to feel happy and grateful when you are afraid and stressed with life events. Last night I was in the “valley” in my life as my cancer has returned after more than five years being cancer free. Apparently, my tumors are like “sands” and they cannot perform surgery as they would have to “take up the entire beach”. I lost hope when learning that I would have to take chemo again. I hoped/believed that during the five years some new treatment might have been discovered, yet I was reminded that my ovarian/peritoneal cells were rare and my prognosis for life was short. What ever might I post today to lift our spirits?

Then, I remembered the verse from Psalms 23:4:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.

KJV

What does this verse mean for us?

I am grateful to find comfort within this verse, and as I typically do, I searched for a deeper meaning to understand the new calm I felt when reflecting on these words:

  • David, in the earlier verses, had been describing green pastures, still waters, and pathways. I compared this to my five years of cancer-free joy and gratitude.
  • In verse 4, David switched to a description of a “shadow of death”. This seemed to capture how I was feeling with the diagnosis and treatment plan upon relapse.
  • But just as soon as I had a heart-felt low, David reminds one “not to fear” because God is with us.

Thus, through this post today I wish to emphasize the importance of “spiritual medicine”.

Just as I plan my chemical infusions, I realize I am also reminded regarding and recognizing the presence of ongoing Divine intervention. Divine intervention which never changes over the years.

God inspired sweet and deep passages to continually protect, love, instruct, and remind us.

Today, I find deep gratitude as the words in Psalms echo in my heart: no more shadows, no more fears, no more evil as God is with me, now, in this valley of decisions.

#gratitudeultra

Grateful That Peace Surpasses All Understanding!

Five years and one month ago, I was ill and expected to die soon. Yet, obviously even today I am still very much alive and am expressing my gratitude for such through my postings to you on my gratitudesquared.com

Recently, and unfortunately, now I am facing uncertain illness again and am finding it hard to express gratitude in the face of my fear.

But, yesterday something happened to strengthen my resolve towards gratefulness, just in time to offset the strength of my growing fear as a multi-hour biopsy procedure approaches tomorrow.

In brief, I was engaging in a chat with a dear friend about health and wellness and she remarked that my parents and grandfather were with me in spirit at that time. This felt like a nice statement and I did not think much more about it at that time. About five minutes after, as I was driving alone in LA traffic, the phrase “peace that surpasses all understanding” came to mind. I rushed home to google the origin of this phrase because I had not heard that phrase for years, if at all. I could not remember, and certainly I do not speak like that. I should note, however, my father was a Baptist Minister, a relevant fact to this story I believe!

Thanks to my computer and Google, when I put that exact phrase in, I learned such interesting facts that I had to share with all of you. I learned that Paul the Apostle had written a letter to the Philippians (which is now known as the country of Greece) in which he instructed people to remain steadfast in their faith. Paul’s letter is the eleventh book of the New Testament, and Paul wrote it while in prison for preaching. Of course, I wondered what does this have to do with me and/or my health?

Those of you who know me know that I am very analytical, a researcher, and make decisions and take actions based on data, so I kept probing this phrase… My years of Ph.D. training were kicking in full blast. In brief, I just had to research this phrase, and learn the significance of such. This is what I am discovering even as I type this blog to you:

  • Paul wrote to the people In Philipi to express his GRATITUDE! Go to learnreligions.com for more information. It seems serendipitous that this verse is related to Gratitude! Out of all the verses in the Bible, this one emerged…
  • The Book of Philippians “conveys a powerful message about the secret of contentment… in every circumstance he had learned to be content“.
  • The main and consistent theme of this eleventh book is JOY! Joy and gratitude go hand in hand along one’s journey to a State of Gratitude. How wonderful…
  • The main message of Philippians 4 is encouragement. I felt I certainly needed that message to face the biopsy again after five years of no new tumors.
  • Important principles in Philippians 4 are peace and joy in all circumstances. Indeed, I was looking for peace of mind for the upcoming procedure. And, I must admit it is hard to find joy in the face of fear. This verse became my reminder.
  • My verse: Philippians 4:7 is “peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds…” (KJV). See the relevance of this below.

Does anyone see the connections between this verse and my daily practices of Gratitude, joy, happiness, contentment? I do. I felt like I had received a message.

I wanted to learn more so I went to Pulpit Commentary on biblehub.com. Note: I am keeping this posting short so I will not explain verse 6 above my particular verse 7, but 6 is also relevant to my circumstance (“in nothing be anxious“).

Verse 4:7, as explained on biblehub, flows from God’s gracious presence. The “peace” passes ALL understanding. The peace “transcends the reach of human thought… it can be known only by the inner experience of the believer.” Further, “thoughts issue from the heart… in Hebrew Scriptures, the heart is regarded as the seat of the intellect, not of feeling only.” What a densely worded and impactful verse! I read it over and over again to gain a better understanding of that particular message.

So, how did this experience/verse appearing in my mind… impact me or manifest through my actions as I prepare myself mentally for the biopsy?

  • I am now at peace for tomorrow. Surprisingly…
  • Because I understand that the peace I now feel surpasses my understanding, and transcends beyond what my own human mind may comprehend, I am at peace. In fact, I now understand that this peace is so deep that I am unable to fully comprehend it – I must accept this peace through faith alone.
  • I am yielding my mind to my heart. My heart is in control now and tomorrow.
  • My intellect is given by faith to my heart. This is an interesting experience for me as I continually need to see the data and the evidence to trust, believe, and act.
  • The transcendent feeling I am experiencing today for tomorrow can be known only to me. This is such a true statement. As something like the following was said in the Nixon years, only when you have been in the deepest valley can you appreciate the experience on the mountaintops. I personally find that serious illness drives one to their faith to a greater extent than before, and when additional health issues re-emerge, only those experiencing the decision-making processes can know the depth of fear and sorrow or joy. Looking death in the face and making decisions to speed or prolong life is sobering at best and sacred overall.
  • For more than five years now I have explained my ongoing health to others as a consequence of not only doctors’ surgeries, traditional and alternative treatments, and a variety of life practices, but also due to God’s Grace and spiritual beliefs.
  • I typically say: “I can not explain why I am still alive.” “But, I do know that there is a spiritual component to my continued health”.

Yesterday, what happened to me while driving in the busiest of LA traffic was spiritual… again… It is a unique experience to experience…. it gave me joy, peace, hope, and understanding. It took my fear and anxiety away.

I am so grateful that I have peace that surpasses all understanding.

I hope I have adequately explained the meaning of the phrase that emerged in my mind yesterday………. through this posting. The meaning became clear, at least, to me. I know in reality that some of you will understand this posting fully as you have reached out to me with your own stories of life and death… Perhaps, in time, others will also come to understand… I pray most of you may never need to do so.

As I summarize this posting today, at least one person appeared to understand the significance of this phrase as well it seemed…

That is, one of my Jewish friends, read my post and listened to me calmly but joyfully relay my experience yesterday, after which she very simply and quietly said, “I might have to start reading the books of the New Testament”. I found this to be a significant statement, coming from a nonbeliever…

Blessings to you. My deepest and sincere gratitude I send to those of you who are holding me up with positivity and prayer! I thank you.

#gratitudeultra

Blessed At The Mission of Saint Agnes of Rome, Virgin and Martyr, in Solvang, California

Recently, I visited the Mission in Solvang, CA, attending a Mass led by an Irish Priest, and experiencing the spiritual and social life of the Santa Ynez Valley. Through serendipity I received a blessing for my upcoming medical tests, as well as a blessing for a precious Bible purchased by a dear friend whose mother is nearing her end of life. The kind greetings from all of the staff at the Mission were most memorable as were the old fashioned gospel songs played through guitar by yet another priest. None of this was pre-planned which is why I am blogging, with gratitude, about my experience this day. It was a very special day!

Continue reading

Grateful For Wisdom When Ending The Journey Of Life: An Overview

I have always loved elderly people because they are wise and have wonderful stories to tell, if you listen. Unfortunately, we often get too busy during our own life’s journey to notice that older persons among us need more care from us. It is as though our journeys through life demand extra care when we begin our life, and again when we are nearing the end-of-life.

This posting includes my observations for you as a daughter, mom, friend, and health care professional regarding End-of-Life Care.

It is well known that people tend to like to stay at home as their journey through life comes to an end, but that is not always possible because of health issues, personal care needs, nutritional requirements, family distances, and so on. So, as we all age, the questions before us are: “What do we do?” “How do we plan for ourselves as we grower older and need extra care?”

Why am I posting this information for us today? Because I have watched my younger sister, my mom, and my dad pass away. Now I am watching dear friends and neighbors age, and I myself am growing older. As I was recently listening to Amanda Stead’s lecture on End-of-Life Care, I felt so grateful that Amanda reminded me, and helped me to summarize the wisdom we all have access to for our own planning:

  1. We are all going to die at the end of our life journey, so how does one prepare for the best end of life? There are multiple resources to inform us about end-of-life care just as there is knowledge regarding beginning life, as in birth, parenting, etc.
  2. As each of us, or our family members and friends age, it is important to learn about choices we each have regarding Hospice care, or Palliative care. Our choices do not need to be permanent as our health and care needs will change over time, but it is better to plan ahead and learn about such choices before being faced with an emergency.
  3. As one ages there needs to be decisions regarding independence, dignity, spiritual preferences, psychological, emotional needs, ethical decisions, and personal wishes.
  4. We all need to have people (family members or friends), who are our spokespeople in case we are unable to communicate clearly. We, or others, need to have an advanced directive (a written document) regarding our wishes for end-of life care.
  5. We all need to discuss realistic outcomes as we anticipate what may be coming in our future. Thus, before you become ill or lose the ability to communicate, you need to talk about what you imagine to be a good plan for your End-of-Life. You might begin such conversations by answering the question: “What matters to me most at the end of life is ______________________________________?”
  6. Sharing information is so important during this time. Information regarding your location preferences for where you wish to be as you grow older is important. Your financial costs, insurance coverage, wish for pain control, treatment preferences for eating, feeding, and swallowing should be identified.
  7. Your personal wishes, and cultural values are important and necessary to understand and honor during this time period.
  8. Reach out to Chaplains, Priests, Pastors, and Rabbis to incorporate your spiritual needs during these times of decision making.
  9. Take care of the above types of decisions before you grow too old for such planning. Make sure you share your thoughts with your family and friends.
  10. Know there is a “Dying Patient’s Bill of Rights”, and an abundance of resources provided through Medicare to assist you. Don’t put off till tomorrow what you should do today!

In the future, I plan to introduce a new “gratitude category” regarding end-of-life care as I am so grateful that information is available to me to provide for my dignity, spiritual, medical, psychological, and emotional needs as I grow older. In the context of generational differences in perception, as well as societal changes in our family constellations, it is more important than ever before to allow the elderly to prioritize their needs for independence as well as dependence on others.

I am grateful for knowledge regarding end-of-life care. How ’bout you?

For a spiritual perspective on End-Of-Life, let me conclude this blog with a poem written and read by my mother from her Book of Poetry titled, A House Inside of Me. The relevant poem for today is, I Don’t Want to Die I Like It Here. When you click on this link you will hear this poem. It seems relevant, in a more personal style of writing, to our topic today.

At this time in your life, What Matters Most to you for Planning? Please think about it as I am watching friends dealing and struggling with these issues right now.

#gratitudelite

Gratitude For Clarity Re: Tooth Pain Management

Last week my tooth started to ache. I tried Acetaminophen then Ibuprofen tablets… a little relief. During the weekend the pain increased from a one to a ten… the earlier tablets provided no relief. My brother suggested I take an antibiotic in case I was developing an infection. I took only one pill … immediate relief!

On Monday, I went to a dentist who immediately sent me to an Endodontist. When that doctor asked which tooth? I reported that every tooth in my mouth and head and more seemed to be painful over the weekend, but one antibiotic pill seemed to give me immediate relief. He said, “that is the tell-tale sign of a bacterial infection!” He showed me an image similar to the one featured above.

See the tooth (in above image) marked with the ‘red’? You will also see the nerve from that single tooth goes to a main nerve branch and the consequence may be pain throughout your mouth, jaw, sinuses, eyes, head, and beyond! Wow… at that moment, I was so grateful for a new understanding and differentiation of tooth pain. The image looked like a skull with little worms climbing all over it. It reminded me of a horror film. I was stunned at the pain caused from one tooth to one nerve and all the branches from such. I get it!

Continue reading

With Gratitude For The Grotto Of Lourdes, Bernadette, and Our Lady Mary, 11th February 1858 to 2022 On

During the weekend of August 23, 2019, I had the opportunity to visit the Sanctuary of Lourdes in Lourdes France, where pilgrims and visitors, and the most vulnerable persons in our communities regularly have visited for 164 years, celebrating the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to the young girl, Bernadette (See the movie, The Song of Bernadette to learn the story). Today we celebrate this World Day of the Sick, as in 1993 Pope John Paul II established this Day at the Grotto where so many people find comfort and peace.

Please join me as we celebrate this Day each year on 11th February, with Gratitude.

Today Celebrate The World Day of the Sick, with Gratitude

#gratitudeultra

Grateful For The Benefits From Mental Practice

Physically, we are constantly faced with the need to perform various physical actions such as walking, running, sitting, skating, biking, swimming, opening bottles, lifting and many more. As we grow older, or if we have any illness, sometimes our physical actions become limited, or modified. Too often I watch people become increasing disabled by their perception of their limitations.

Continue reading