I took my foldable electric wheelchair solo on my trip to Philadelphia this week. My last solo wheelchair experience was in New York City in 1977 when I took a course at NYU’s Rusk Institute of Physical Rehabilitation. On the second day of the two-week course, I spent the whole day in a wheelchair by myself. It was terrifying. I got stuck in a pothole crossing Fifth Avenue during rush hour. The ground rules were, never get out of the chair. A homeless woman ran over and pushed me across before I got run over by the honking yellow cabs. On Tuesday, in Philly, I got stuck again in a small sidewalk pothole and a man, sitting on the curb with an “I’m homeless” sign came over and pushed me out. I saw him again on my way back from the restaurant. I handed him $10 and thanked him for helping me. He wouldn’t take it, I was just helping you out. I thanked him again and told him, you helped me and now I’m helping you. He took it. Read More
Best Health depends on relationships -relationship with my health team, my relationship with myself. We can accomplish much in these Best Health Relationships. We take stock, tell stories, complain, report, plan, decide, learn. These relationships impact our spiritual, mental and physical health. Relationships take time. Time as in arriving (scheduling, traveling), being present and accomplishing something (catching up, problem-solving, planning what’s next). Time is key to these Best Health Relationships. Early on in relationships, to establish a connection, a language, a trust, in the relationship, it’s either longer spans of time at each sitting or more frequent sittings.
During my first visit with my neurologist, he said, I know a lot about drugs and therapeutics for Multiple Sclerosis, but I don’t know anything about you, except your brain scan. My job is to get to know you. Your job is to learn about Multiple Sclerosis. Our visits were often long – 45 minutes, an hour. Soon we developed a short-hand and routine. What’s on your list? This is on mine? Wait, I think we missed one thing on your list. OK. We decided I’m going to do this, you’re going to do that. Text me to let me know how it went. Ten-fifteen minutes tops. A new clinician starts the cycle over. Build a relationship. Sometimes there’s no chemistry. Then the time (of any length) is mostly wasted, ineffective, especially if I’m in any distress, which is often. Read More
I’m ready to quit playing my horn. I can’t seem to bring what I’ve learned while playing at home (practicing) to rehearsals. I’m lost. I have fat fingers. I can’t find a 2 or 4 measure rhythmic pattern that works. I lose my place. I can’t seem to learn the language. I definitely I don’t have the muscle memory yet. It’s disheartening. I’m used to being good at what I do. I was a great bedside nurse. I was a really good boss. I’m a prolific and engaging writer. I’m sought after for my patient/caregiver activism. Music, not so much. I’m persistent, not talented. I’m humbled, playing music. Part of the secret sauce to managing my Multiple Sclerosis, is that I keep manageable stress to a minimum. Being a boss and employee was too stressful, so I stopped. I don’t have secrets. My close relationships are fresh and up-to-date. I adapt well to my slow reduction in function. Playing is stressing me out. Wait, I haven’t had a sax lesson in months. My teacher is very good. Positive and creative with my fluctuating abilities. Tells me to play less. I didn’t stay at the top of my game in my 40+ year career without coaching and mentoring. It wasn’t possible. I play for a reason. It’s one of two outcomes I track with my doctors (falling and playing the saxophone).
I’m not quitting. Thanks for listening.
I trust my primary care doc. I trust my neurologist. I trust my instincts. I trust my gut. I do. I trust my wife. She trusts me. That certainly doesn’t mean that we don’t question almost everything each other says. Trust is not blind faith. Trust is NOT no second opinions. Trust is for when I’m in a crisis and I can’t think clearly, I will listen to my immediate family and my two lead docs (in that order) and I’m likely to do what they recommend… unless I’m unsure. Trust is for when I need to make a decision but can’t or don’t want to. And these are all people’s opinions about what I should do with my life. I know I should lose weight. People I trust say I should lose weight. It takes a certain alignment of the stars for me to lose weight. I lost 30 pounds eight years ago when the stars were in alignment. They were in alignment again three weeks ago. I’ve started to lose the same 30 pounds again.
I’ve questioned my primary care doc about taking cholesterol-lowering meds. She wants me to take them. I’m not so sure. The evidence appears pretty clear. I’ve been taking them for nine years because I trust her. Now with Medicare, they’re going to cost me more. It has me thinking again. I still trust her. I’ve stopped taking them.
I trusted my doctors for twenty-five years as they worked me up, over and over, for cardiac issues. Now I know I have multiple sclerosis, not heart disease. I’m a trusting fellow until I’m not.
A friend of mine had breast cancer. She asked her doctors, “Should I take chemo?” They all said yes. She trusted that they wanted the best for her, but wondered where their trust in that advice came from? Was their research current, reliable, and apply to her as an individual? She did the chemo.
Webster says, Trust = you can rely on the integrity, strength, or ability of a person or thing. Trust is respect + communication + context. Making choices about your health in a bed of trust is hard enough. Making choices in the swamp of distrust can be crazy making.
As a person, I try to build trust – in relationships. It starts with being trustworthy. I feel better in that bed of trust. Still, trust in myself, ourselves, is key. Ultimately, it’s our lives. We face the consequences of our decisions. I’m greatly relieved that I trust I can adjust and make a different choice if the one I made didn’t work out. Trust.
At the #PCORI2017 Annual Meeting, Alan Alda showed us a simple mirror improv exercise (remember Groucho and Chico Marx in Duck Soup?). Alan first showed us him mirroring an audience member, then the audience member mirroring him, and finally, them mirroring each other at the same time. It was an exercise in empathy. Afterwards, someone at my table said,
From the outside looking in, it’s hard to understand. From the inside looking out, it’s hard to explain.
I first heard these words many years ago from a peer support professional describing the experience of depression and addiction. I understand this better now that I’m a person with a chronic illness. I work hard to explain what’s inside to my family and other members of my health team. Often I don’t know or I don’t have words. Mindful meditation helps tremendously – deciding to become friends with what ails me. It’s all me and I love me. I’m not sure if it helps me explain, but it helps me know myself. And for sure, it increases my empathy when I’m on the outside looking in. Thanks, Alan, for reminding us.
See also other posts about Improv and
I care about what works for people on their health journey. How do lay people make choices for themselves in partnership with their clinician partners? So much affects our health choices, not just our medical decisions, but our behavior, our communities, the environment and the systems we use to survive and live well. I’m very interested in research, but I’m also a skeptic: How does this study help me? How does it help my family? How does it help my clinician partners? How does it help the people who support and care for us? We are the people at the center of care. Just because we found out that something might work in a lab, does that mean will it work for us? Read More
I’m Disabled. Who labels themselves? Feels like crap. I applied for disability. Needed a psychological evaluation. Spent an hour with a psychologist. I spent that hour telling her about the effect MS has had on my life. MS is seriously annoying…. Came out feeling terrible. “Oh man, I’m disabled. My life has been so disrupted. I can’t do what I once did. Woe is me.” Lost my pathological optimism for a day. I’ve had to train myself over the years to feel sorry for myself. “OK 5 min, feel sorry.” Enough of that. It’s too boring. When I feel sorry for myself my symptoms are worse. Direct correlation.
Lots of people have it worse than me, much worse. Read More
One of my passions in life is Learning What Works for people on their health journey. As we travel, we make choices – endless choices. Should I do A rather than B? Eat the brownie or don’t eat the brownie? Take a walk or don’t? Go to the doctor or wait until I feel worse? Fill the prescription the doctor wrote or don’t? Have surgery or wait and see? Stay home with my dad with dementia or arrange for home care? Or we make no decision at all (a decision in itself). Sometimes people search for help in making these choices. Help from professionals on their care team, from their care partner, from Dr. Google, from their mates or social network.
Learning what works is an experiment.
A person tries something – it worked or it didn’t – for them. To know it worked means that the person has an idea of what they are trying to accomplish (See my post on personal health goals). And that they think there’s a relationship between what they tried and what they accomplished (or didn’t). I have a fever, took an aspirin, and the fever dropped. I have heartburn, stopped eating chocolate, and now less heartburn. My MS symptoms are getting worse. I reduce manageable stress. My symptoms subside. What’s important in all this is that I know what I want, I try something, and I feel better or accomplish what I wanted (or didn’t). Some people, like me, have a written care plan and keep track with lists and spreadsheets. (See my post on planning personal care) Most don’t. Read More
I am on a health journey, trying to meet my health goals with the support of a care team. Who’s doing what? When are they doing it? That’s my plan of care for me.
Most people don’t normally think in terms of a plan of care for themselves. Let’s peek into their minds:
Plan of Care – What’s Going on in Their Minds?
Patient: What’s wrong with me? Should I tell the doctor? What does she want me to do? Can I afford it? Does it (will it) hurt? Can I (will I) still be able to take care of my family (go to work, go out, have fun)? What happens next? How’m I doing now? Did the med (the procedure, the diet…) work? Did it help me? What should I worry about? What should I do if it happens (again)?
Clinician: What’s on his mind? What’s wrong with him? What should I do next? What did I prescribe before? Did he do it, did he take it? Will he tell me the truth? If he did it, did it work? What do the tests tell me? What should I prescribe next? What are other doctors doing (ordering)? Has he been to the hospital since I saw him last?
Questions, questions, questions. So many bumps in the road and detours in the health journey. Few maps, spotty GPS at best. Read More
I’m not a complainer or worrier-at least not often or for long. Comparatively, I have little to complain or worry about. Yet, this week I struggle with pneumonia, try to regain strength, not hurt myself coughing and not being a jerk or a burden. I’m also turning 65 and enrolling in Medicare. I keep dwelling on the amount of effort it takes to be or support someone who is sick. What is that effort? I’ve come up with six questions anyone who is worrying asks themselves. You’ll see in the pie chart below that I’ve arbitrarily assigned a percentage to how much I think most people worry about each question. (No science here, no evidence, just my thoughts)