My Journey Towards Mindfulness

Listening to my dogs and husband’s breathing while they slept the other night reminded me that taking slow deep breaths relaxes me and eases anxiety. Stress and letting go are constant battles in my brain.  The former can aggravate chronic and mental illness and pain.  I practice yoga and other exercises that are gentle on my body  (though, admittedly, not lately) and learned some time ago the value of deep breathing.  Not the most disciplined person, I find myself needing more – a tangible, realistic way of letting go of circumstances that are toxic to my brain.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Watching Anderson Cooper on a 60 Minutes report on mindfulness, my curiosity piqued when Cooper said research of the practice showed positive results for sufferers of chronic illness.   Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Stress Reduction and Relaxing Program (later renamed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979.  While he studied Buddhism, Kabat-Zinn prefers taking a scientific approach to mindfulness and apparently, it works.  American Mindfulness Research was created in 2013 to support empirical and conceptual data as well as develop best practices.

According to the website: “Mindfulness is the innate ability we have to be present, composed, and to pause before we overreact to the challenges of our busy lives.”

I’m intrigued that practicing mindfulness can improve physical, as well as, mental health.  The practice may also improve eating habits and insomnia.  Through research and practice, I hope I can better manage stressful situations – especially those that I cannot change – and improve my health.  Never before disciplined with daily meditation, I recently started listening to a podcast offering free mindful meditations (Mindful Meditations) before sleep.  I think I’m ready to take the next step and practice mindfulness in my daily life.

In addition to the websites mentioned above, I’m reading two books by Jon Kabat-Zinn:

Mindfulness for Beginners 
Wherever You Go, There You Are  

I welcome comments from readers who practice mindfulness and anyone who wants to join me on my journey.


One Year Later

My life changed dramatically in the past year. I began working full-time, my husband and I bought a house on 5 acres, and I needed to find a new health team. I put my blog on the back burner because it was an obligation that I could not add to my busy plate. But I’ve missed the process of writing and sharing. It is a project that gives me purpose. While sometimes a painful and challenging process, clicking submit always satisfies.

I am not sure where my writings will lead this time around. Reading past postings, I realized that there was too much about my health challenges. How boring is that?! My original intention was writing as a motivator, educator and counselor but it sounded more like a whiner. I do not feel pity for myself so why would I write like I was seeking consolation from others?

This time around, perhaps Erato, the poetry muse, will bless me with inspiration more often. Perhaps my camera lens will document some of the remarkable landscape, creatures, and loved ones that surround my life. All I know for certain is that I want to nudge my creative self.

I continue to manage life with chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyletis (we have to find a new name for this disease!) and fibromyalgia. Postings will continue to be influenced by my chronic illness, as it is a component of my life. But now I plan on sharing experiences from my exploration of ways that enhance my life – increasing joy and giving purpose in life.

I hope you join me on my new adventures.

Tips from my Website

You can conquer any mountain
You can conquer any mountain

Below are tips for sufferers of chronic illness from my website LB Webb Coach.  Check out more useful information at
Please Note: It is important to talk with your physician, physical therapist or other licensed professionals before trying new physical activities or tools.

Find a Trusted Medical Professional – Communicating with your physician is critical. This is the most important advice I can offer.   Go to appointments with lists of questions.  I can offer suggestions on how you can self-advocate.  If you are not comfortable with your physician and (s)he minimizes your concerns, find another!! Talk candidly about medications and if one doesn’t work, explain how it makes you feel and try something else. If unable to find a physician who doesn’t listen or make you feel valued, acupuncturists, physical therapists, and other health professionals may help.

A Trusting Ear – Good mental health is an important part of your health program. It is important to have someone to share frustrations as well as successes. Ideally, everyone needs multiple people they trust depending on the circumstances. Family members, friends, professional therapists, life coaches can all be considered. The key is finding someone who you know who does not judge you, accepts you, and appreciates you.

Exercise – Start slow and easy but do something! Whether walking for 5 minutes; sweeping the floor; practicing tai chi or yoga, it is very important to get into a routine of using muscles and joints. Swimming is probably the best exercise for chronic pain and illness as it easier on joints and muscles. Many pools offer classes specially designed for people like us.

I knitted this baby blanket for a loved one.
I knitted this baby blanket for a loved one.

Find a Hobby –  Knitting, crotchet,  creating scrapbooks, photography, bird watching, gardening or anything that is pleasurable for you and takes your mind off your pain is important.

Massage – Many people in pain (particularly fibromyalgia patients) cringe at the idea of anyone touching let alone massaging muscles. Communicating with the massage therapist can make the experience both pleasurable and helpful.

Pampering – Part of the massage experience feels good because it’s important to be good to yourself.  If massages are not comfortable, try a manicure and pedicure (not just for women anymore).  Going to a matinee, museum or having lunch with friends can  feel like a treat.

Warmth – Baths, hot compresses and heating pads, preferably moist, provide temporary relief.

Massage Foam Rollers – Using gentle pressure on targeted areas by moving the roller back and forth on the floor can be very painful in some areas at first. But even doing a few times at first, muscles are more relaxed and fascia (connective tissue that surrounds muscles and nerves) are lengthened and softer.

TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) Unit – TENS is a pocket-size device that sends electrical impulses to block pain signals. Electrical currents are mild but can ease specific areas of pain. TENS is not helpful for migrating pain.   NOTE: Ask physician or physical therapist about TENS and how to use it properly.

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I can help you live a joyful life.  Contact me for a free consultation at

Goals and Dreams – Yes! Resolutions – No!

So long 2012, Welcome 2013!

This time last year, I wrote about my distaste for resolutions (see post below).  I still feel the same but I am in the process of developing major changes in 2013 by setting personal and professional goals intended to improve my health and quality of life.  Goals are achievable and measurable outcomes that have clear, step by step plans of action to success.  Goals require thoughtful consideration, documentation, and flexibility.  Goals need periodic reassessment and nurturing.  Resolutions are whims and wishes that can easily be broken year after year.

For example, one of my professional goals for 2013 is to build and expand the number of blog followers, Facebook likes, and website sign ups for each of my sites.  This requires a series of marketing steps over the next several months.  I can easily measure my success by the number of hits on each site.

It is sheer coincidence that the changes I begin making now occur as one year ends and another begins.  As the new combination of medications and vitamins relieve debilitating symptoms, my brain fog is dissipating.  I decided to focus all of my professional energy on my life coaching and exploring the possibility of writing a book on living joyfully with chronic illness.  I am exploring new ways that bring me greater satisfaction in personal development.  In short, I have spent some time on my web of life, considered its weakness, and am working on strengthening it once again.

I don't care about traveling much anymore but I dream of going to Hawaii with my husband some day.
I don’t care about traveling much anymore but I dream of going to Hawaii with my husband some day.
I've dreamed of owning an alpaca farm for years.  It will happen some day!
I’ve dreamed of owning an alpaca farm for years. It will happen some day!

I have many dreams in my future but achieving my goals and setting new ones are

needed for my dreams to come true.  Making new changes in life is kind of scary but it is also exciting.   I realize that my chronic illness may need adjustments to timelines that I set but that’s okay.  I know that my illness is part of me.  But it is not

I dream of a veggie garden that makes me proud - end of  Texas drought required.
I dream of a veggie garden that makes me proud – end of Texas drought required.

going to stop me from doing what I want and living the life I dream.

I can help you set new goals to live more joyfully despite chronic illness.  Contact me at and let’s schedule time to chat on the phone!

Resolution Free – Re-post from January 1, 2012

Happy 2012!

I want to briefly write about resolutions because I think they are foolish.  Lose weight, quit smoking, exercise more, blah blah blah.  Each year, people decide that this is the year of change but do they really want to make those changes or do they simply think they should because of how others may feel or because they don’t feel good about themselves.

The truth is, the calendar has no relevance to living and managing the life you want.  If  you want to do something, and you feel good then you are more likely to success.  When you are up and in a positive mood and your instinct tells you the time is right, you will be able to think clearly and increase your chances of achieving your dream of a healthier and happier life.

When I made the decision to move to Alaska to become a school counselor in remote villages, it was not a resolution that made me do it.  When the opportunity presented itself, I immediately took the opportunity because I knew in my gut it was the right thing to do.  I owned a house that wouldn’t sell, a house full of furniture, memorabilia, and junk that needed dealing with but I didn’t care. I also have chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia and would be driving thousands of miles with two dogs.

Eventual Iditarod Winner Lance Mackey arrives first in Nulato, AK

Nothing is insurmountable if it’s what you believe is the right thing to do.

It may be cold outside but our hearts are warm

When I met my husband in the tiny village of Nulato, Alaska, I was not so much resigned but accepting of living my life as a single woman with my dogs. But my instinct for the first time, told me that this was a man who was good for me.  After three years, we moved to his home state of  Texas, married and life for me is as it should.

It wasn’t my resolution of 2011 to become a life coach for people with disabilities.  Coaching was in the back of my mind for years but it just didn’t seem doable. In fact, my ‘aha moment’ came one night while in the midst of a fibro-flare up.  I needed to take time off from completing my M.ED because I was unable to think straight, suffered low energy, and was functioning on auto-pilot and not with purpose.  One night, it just hit me and I knew it was the perfect career choice.  I got busy marketing, talking to people, and writing.  I’ve had lots of experience in non-profit management, education, and even some corporate experience but knew nothing about starting my very own business.  But I am finally working towards growing my dream career regardless of obstacles.

Of course nothing is easy and dreams are usually developed over time.  You will know when the time is right to move forward and act.  Your mood will be high, your thoughts clear, and you will follow your instincts.

Instead of making resolutions this year, consider your dreams and if you need to get your ‘head’ in the right place to move forward, I can help you move forward to strengthen your web of life.

People Who Inspire (3rd in Series) – Kelly

Kelly and I are kind of related through marriage.  Her brother is married to my husband’s niece and we have actually only met once though we’ve become fast friends through facebook.   Kelly’s story actually gave me the idea of writing about people who inspire me.   Needing background information, I asked Kelly to send me some history.  Imagine my surprise, when this lovely young lady wrote her story for me.  I made a few editorial changes but decided that Kelly’s tale must be told by Kelly herself.

I am Kelly and at 19, while working at a local hospital and going to college for a nursing degree, I fell.  I needed surgery and something like potato roots was found growing in my knees. The surgeon sent a sample to pathology and the results came back “inflammation”. It didn’t sound serious to me at the time, so I just brushed that piece of information off and continued to rehab, thinking I’d ache a little, then get better.

I remember going to work and telling the nurses, “I don’t know what arthritis feels like, but I feel like I have it.” Of course, the nurses all said I was too young and not to worry about it. I continued therapy and I got worse and worse.  I started blaming the surgeon thinking maybe he messed up and was too chicken to admit it.

The pain was enough for me to admit I couldn’t give my patients adequate care.  I had to resign, break the lease at my apartment and move back in with my parents.  Soon, I couldn’t move at all. My parents were picking me up and putting me to bed, my mom was giving me showers.  We just couldn’t figure out what was going on. The pain was so severe I truly believed I was dying. I remember sitting my parents down and telling them that I was ready to die. The next day, my mom took me to the doctors’ office begging them to find out what on earth was killing me. After blood tests and other lab tests, it was confirmed I had RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis).  We were dumbfounded….don’t only old people get RA? And what is it anyway? You mean to tell me ‘arthritis’ is killing me? After much research, I learned what RA was and that it was meaner than anything I could have ever imagined.

A basic regimen of medications was soon ruled out because my RA was too aggressive.  We tried another combo of medications, again, a failed combination. Next, we started IV treatments. Rituxan is also used for patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. By taking this drug, I accepted the fact that I

would not have the ability to have children of my own. I remember being so angry that before my chance of having my own family arrived, it was gone. My life decisions were made for me.

My body resisted Rituxan, a chemo derivative, but after FORCING it into my body, it worked. Something finally worked. I was scared to death to go in for treatments because I knew I would have one serious reaction after another. Once, my whole body was a giant hive. Another time I had to stop treatment for a while because I couldn’t breathe. On and on the reactions would show up and for the sake of living I had to bite the bullet and just take it. On top of that, the treatment was expensive and while insurance paid most of it, I was still responsible for a hefty chunk.

While on Rituxan, a job opportunity came my way for a 911 public safety dispatcher at my local police department.  I passed the tests and accepted the position. I was so scared of everyone knowing I was ‘sick’ that I only told my director and immediate supervisor. I started my job with the idea that I had to fight this battle by myself.  It was mine, and mine alone and no one else’s burden…I had to go through a

couple of infusion scares before I realized that the people I worked with, other dispatchers, firemen, and police officers, all wanted to be my support. They wanted to be my strength.

After four years, Rituxan stopped working and I then stopped taking the drug. I realized this when I fell at work in December of 2010 and broke a bone in my shoulder that required surgery. All the suppressed fears of ‘going back to hell’ came swarming back to me. But being a stubborn cuss, I again bit the bullet and went under the knife. There was no getting better after surgery.  I had another flare up. The difference this time was I knew exactly what was wrong with me. And I knew the ins and outs of the disease, which made me more terrified than before my diagnosis. I was forced to take a few weeks off work that turned into months.

In the middle of all this, I was abandoned by my rheumatologist. While on Rituxan, I was also signed into a clinical trial for RA patients for this drug through my doctor. I later learned that my doctor was paid for me being on this trial.

Learning that I removed myself from this study when I stopped taking Rituxan, he told me, “There is nothing more I can do for you. You will get worse. You ought to prepare yourself to be medically retired by the time you’re age 30.”

I was crushed. Crushed is not a strong enough word for it. I was destroyed. My spirit had died, I had no hope. I was again preparing to die.  I forced myself to go back to work, even though I was in copious amounts of pain.

I kept acting like I was okay.  Then, I was asked to train another new hire. We were taking a restroom break and I couldn’t hold onto my pants enough to pull them up on my own. I had to ask my trainee to come into the bathroom stall with me and pull my pants up. She did it willingly.  With love and compassion, she made sure her trainer, was taken care of. The reality of what was going on broke me.

I had to admit to myself and everyone around me.   I JUST CAN’T DO THIS. I took sick leave.   I was laid up at home with no hope when one day, a coworker called and told me of a doctor her father goes to in Lubbock. She gave this doctor glowing reviews. I had absolutely nothing to lose, so I looked up his information and made an appointment.

The three hour drive was torture. We got there and I met COMPASSION!  I was looking in the face of a true doctor. I told him my story of the past six years, and by the end of my story, his compassion had turned into rage. Not at me, but at my previous doctor.  How could a physician allow a human being go through such unnecessary pain when there were so many more avenues possible. His rage turned into care when I asked him, “Will you keep me?” He said yes with love.

I left that office with hope. Hope bigger than anything I’ve ever felt before. We had to wait for the last round of Rituxan to wear off. And when I got home (I had since moved to my own place again)….I felt the fury of Hell racing through my body. I lost my ability to do ANYTHING. My mother came over to dress me, bathe me, pick me up from the bed and put me in the recliner before she had to go to work. I could not walk. I was a breathing slab of concrete. Every joint in my body had seized up and everywhere else was so swollen my skin began to rip open.

Three months later, I started a new treatment called Actemra with Dr. Compassion. It was a brand new drug. All of the trials had outlandishly awesome reviews. After the first dose, I swore I felt a difference. Yes, thank you, God, relief.    But another setback was to come.

The next month I went in for a follow up appointment. I was optimistic, but I was equally concerned. I

began to get welts in odd places.  One on my inner right thigh, another on my gut, and one in my mouth. The welt in my mouth was large and painful. It looked like someone took a baseball bat to my face by the time Dr. Compassion saw it. He said it wasn’t related to RA, because RA effects joints, not skin tissue.

I took his word and left the appointment feeling good. I met my brother and his wife for dinner with my parents at a restaurant in Lubbock. My food tasted really bad, but I was hungry so I didn’t say anything and the welt in my mouth was really bothering me. After we had finished and walked outside to say our goodbyes, the welt inside my mouth burst. The smell and taste of putrid gunk was everywhere. We raced to my brother’s house to clean me up.

The next day, I went to my family practice doctor and he said it was an infection of my saliva gland. The new drug had wiped my immune system out so completely that simple bacteria a healthy person would never even know was in them crippled me. Ok, so here come some antibiotics.  I called Dr. Compassion and he said we couldn’t continue with treatment until the infection cleared up.

The welt in my thigh grew bigger and was a lot more painful. After a while I couldn’t walk (again). The welt began ‘weeping’. Seepage from the welt was stinky and creepy. It smelled like my mouth tasted. Mom took me to the ER, where I was seen quickly and given several antibiotics. The welt was a staph infection just like the one in my mouth.  The infection had burrowed into my thigh, and was starting to eat into the muscle tissue.

I was sent to a wound care specialist. At this time, no antibiotic stops the spread of these staph infections but the specialist finally decided to try the oldest and least broad-covering antibiotic that never works for anything. Except for me it worked. The infection finally stopped spreading.

In November 2011, I was finally given the green light to get more treatments. The treatments took and no more infections. By December (exactly one full year after my fall & broken shoulder) I was back to work full-time.

God bless my director, Chief of Police, Chief of Fire, and City Human Resources who felt that I was worth waiting for after a year to still be a part of their team.  I went back to work. January 2012 came and I was rejoicing that the worst year of my life was done. After all the nights of lying in bed begging God to remove me from this life and even seriously thinking of making that happen on my own power, I was on my way back to restoration.

I had often wondered why I was being allowed to go through such an awful thing.  I got an answer in the form of a 911 call last month. A man was at his wit’s end. He was a war vet and had watched all of his buddies get blown away. When he came back to the States, he was diagnosed with PTSD and later in life, with RA. He was calling me, calling the police, to come clean up what was left of him after he shot himself.

I was going through the professional motions when he started to hang up the line.  “Sir, wait, can I tell you something before you go?”

“Sure why not, go ahead.”

“What if I told you I know exactly, EXACTLY, what you’re going through?”

“I’d say that’s a load of horse sh**!”

“Sir, I do, I also have RA.”

I went through my experiences with him while he was holding the receiver of a pay phone at a convenience store. The caller was intently listening to my story of absolute darkness and hopelessness. I got to the part where God allowed me to survive in spite of last year. The man began to cry.

He was telling me thank you when my officers showed up. He was transported to a local hospital and given a mental health evaluation.  I was a voice of hope to this man. Since that call, I’ve been a

light of hope to other people. It took the last year for me to realize that I don’t have to be angry with this disease.

Does it suck? Yes.

Do I hurt still? Absolutely.

Is my RA in remission? No way.

Will it be? I don’t have a clue.

All I know is my dispatchers, firemen, police officers, family, friends, and even strangers look at me and they see strength.

They see weakness.

They see a fighter.

They see a crier.

But most of all, they see ME!

I am loved whether I have a disease or not. Now I know I have a support system of people who love me. I can be open with my RA. I don’t pretend that I’m healthy anymore. I am broken and it’s okay.

Even more, I am a beacon of HOPE!

I am Kelly, 26 years old, broken and loved. My story is not over yet. I have the rest of my life to make a difference and change lives.