Personal Development in the Web of Life


I first posted this a year and a half ago and it remains the most popular viewed posting.  I’ve thought a lot about why it is such a popular topic and I think, at least partly, we all seek ways for improving ourselves, not because others want to but for our own satisfaction.  I also believe personal development is a life long endeavor and crosses all cultures, races, religious preferences, and health.  Why? Because no matter our personal situation, we all seek ways to better our lives.  We all have burdens and obstacles throughout life but it is through personal development that we overcome those challenges and find joy. 

What does the term personal development mean to you? When coaching clients, I consider personal development to be

My first patchwork afghan for my niece

whatever helps them to grow as an individual. Personal growth can include continuing education, learning a hobby, or even starting a new job or business.  Perhaps you have always wanted to learn how to knit or take up photography.  People who suffer from chronic illness or pain, it is important to consider what is realistic when exploring ways to develop personally.

octopus in Nisyros, Greece

As I have mentioned in previous posts, the Web of Life is integrative with each of the segments relating to the other.    Personal development should provide you with fun and joy.  It may be a means to make friends or help better understand your health.  Personal development may also lead to a job that becomes a satisfying career which in turn improves a financial situation.  Of course, all of this depends on personal interests and priorities but this gives an idea of how the Web of Life works.

Some people have asked where religion is on the Web of Life and I believe it belongs in personal development.  Not everyone is religious but those who are spiritual or religious use their beliefs to offer inner strength and personal growth.  For many, God gives the strength to continue each day despite daily pain.  Religion is a personal experience and how one finds or uses spirituality is a developmental process.

For people with chronic illness or pain, it may seem difficult to consider personal development as  life already may seem overwhelming just trying to survive each day.  But it is critical to find something that brings enjoyment and personal growth.   The key is having a sense of purpose.  Personal development can help lead to finding the purpose and joy that even those of us with chronic illness and pain deserve.

For more information about how I may help your personal development or other parts of yourWeb of Life, contact me for a free exploration session at laurawebb@lbwebbcoach.com.

An Unlikely Role Model


Several years ago,  I was sickened and disgusted as most dog lovers and decent human beings when I read about NFL football player, Michael Vick running a dog fighting ring. I don’t even tolerate my own dogs growling at each other so I cheered when Vick went to jail, jeered when he returned to the NFL, and rejected his claims of rehabilitation and having greater appreciation of dogs and other animal welfare.

Yesterday, I read that Vick repaid his $20 million in debt and for the first time thought, “Good for him.”  He didn’t file for  bankruptcy, negotiating, or running away, Vick manned up. Vick earns a hefty $3.5 million this year for playing football, not to mention a likely fortune with Nike.

But why do I care? Once again, I found myself fighting battles.  A chronic fatigue syndrome/fibro flare caused by a virus, stress, or over activity reared its ugly head and knocked me down. Finances went from bad to worse. Not working steadily for the past four years depleted my savings.  My husband is an Agriculture teacher and let’s just say that educators are not highly valued in Texas. Recently, we have received some assistance from a generous donor which has helped us tremendously. Until moving to the Lone Star State, I have worked and supported myself since college. I was independent and a hard worker. But  some called me  enabled for accepting assistance or just plain lazy.  As chronic sufferers would surely agree, try living in our body for just one week!

But  My admiration for Vick returning the money he owed and fighting to win a spot back as top quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles served as a reminder for me. I too have struggled and overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges at times in my life. Things have not always turned out as I planned and goals were unsuccessful. But I accepted defeat, learned, and moved on.  I am resilient!

I took a break from writing this summer to try and give my mind some rest.  I’ve been scattered, confused, and shooting in the dark.  In other words, I was not planning, I was just doing.  I knew what I wanted to do but stress, fear, anxiety, and defeatism kept me from effectively thinking, organizing and doing.

This is the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, and as a Jew this is the time of year for change to occur. More so than January 1st so future blogs will very likely describe my journey towards the next phase of my life.

“Losing a battle or losing everything we thought we possessed will bring us moments of sadness. But when those moments pass, we will discover the hidden strength that exists in each of us, a strength that will surprise us and increase our self-respect.

We will look around and say to ourselves: ‘I survived.’ And we will be cheered by our words.”

The above quote is from Manuscript Found in Accra by Paul Coelho, which I am currently reading. Coelho is author of the remarkable book The Alchemist. In the Manuscript, Coelho talks a lot about defeat, experience, and love.  Many of Coelho’s writings resonate with me. Anticipate more quotes in future postings.

I survived many obstacles in my life single, alone, and independently. I am now married to a loving, caring, and supportive husband. I have some incredibly loving, supportive, and loyal family members. The moment of sadness has passed for me. I survived and I know my life will continue to be full of hope and joy.

Even Zoe sees a new day is dawning
Even Zoe sees a new day is dawning

What a Difference a Trusted Doctor Makes


Last fall, I began treatments for venous retinal occlusion – a broken vein bleeding into the retina. Not knowing any ophthalmologists in my area, I accepted the urgent referral from a local optometrist. What followed over the next eight months were a series of very painful injections into the eye and one equally painful laser treatment.

While I noticed some progress to my vision, I was less than impressed with the ophthalmologist’s bedside manner and the office’s lack of efficiency.  Each visit lasted at least 2 hours and one ghastly appointment continued for over 3 hours where I was the last patient in the office and when my husband asked the receptionist where I was, she went back to look for me and never returned!  The owner of the practice – not the doctor treating me – brought me into an exam room one time thinking I was someone else.  It wasn’t until he called me by another name that I realized his incompetent mistake.

Finally, I contacted another ophthalmologist for a second opinion.  Walking into the office, I felt the difference.   The other doctor’s office felt like a factory with the waiting rooms (yes there are more than one) full with patients shuffled from one conveyor belt to another.   While the waiting room was large, there are never more than a few people waiting at a time.  While I’ve only been to the new doctor twice, I’ve been treated warmly and never waited more than 10 minutes, even when arriving 15 minutes early.

The major difference is the doctor-patient communication.  Whereas the first ophthalmologist ignored my concerns, my new ophthalmologist and  retinal specialist (referred by my new ophthalmologist) heard my concerns, talked more clearly about the treatment process, and quickly eased my mind.    The final clincher for my trust in my new optical team occurred when they explained why I felt so much pain  after the injection.  Apparently, the antiseptic betadine aggravates the dry tenderness.   Rewetting drops help remove the antiseptic and cools the irritation.  While not completely pain-free, rinsing my eye after the treatment and using drops throughout the day helped tremendously.  The nurse said she always advises patients to use drops after injections for the very reason that betadine can irritate.   I wasn’t a wimp after all!  That little piece of information made the world of difference to my psyche.  This health team actually cared about how I felt post-treatment.   What a concept!

Before switching doctors, I had accepted my fate of being partially blind in one eye.  The first ophthalmologist did nothing wrong professionally though my appointments took twice as long as the appointments at the new doctor’s office.  I researched the process for the treatment and  substantiated it with a second opinion.  The difference is trust.  I forgot to take my own advise to keep looking if I don’t trust a referred health professional.  I know there are no guarantees any physician can save my vision.  I also know that the treatment process will continue to hurt though, thankfully, not as acutely.

Now my voice is heard.   I’m confident my vision team will satisfactorily answer any of my questions or concerns.  And that is what we must strive for when managing medical treatments for chronic illness.

Laughter Really is the Best Medicine


Since my February surgery and new prescription regimen, I feel overall improvement in my health.  But I still have aches, pains and days of feeling kind of cruddy. This morning began as one of those days.   My morning walk was sluggish, my motivation waned, and I kept thinking how good a morning nap would feel.  Alas, it was another Monday with much to do and responsibilities to keep.

Usually, working from home is a pleasure for me.   Discipline and distractions are occasionally problematic but that also happened when I worked in an office.   What’s great about being home, is my distractions are much more entertaining than any office building. Today was a prime example of a welcome distraction turning into an hysterical episode at the Webb house.

Amigo, the horse, spent much of the morning calling his new bff , a newly arrived mare who lives next door.   Every time Amigo whinnied, Homer and Luna excitedly barked and ran through the house convinced Amigo was calling them.  After an hour of this nonsense, I finally wised up and decided it

A moment of affection.
A moment of affection.

was time to change this behavior.

I slipped off my flip-flops, pulled up my cowboy boots and took the dogs out to the pasture.   I cued Amigo to run and it took little encouragement with two dogs yapping at his hooves.  With a buck and a kick or two, Amigo trotted out and circled around.  This would never do.  Urging him on, soon Amigo took off in a full gallop with two black dogs quickly losing ground behind him.  After a few minutes, Amigo returned to his yearning post while the dogs happily panted with their tongues hanging.

As I filled Amigo’s trough and the dogs’ outside water bowls, I noticed Luna heading towards the dirt road.  I called her but she has occasional selective deafness.  In other words, Luna ignored me.  Dumbfounded, I watched my beautiful shiny black-haired Luna lay down, stretch and roll over in the brown pool.  How does she know that mud baths are good for her coat and skin???

Even as a puppy Luna learned that a hose shower always followed a mud bath.
Even as a puppy Luna learned that a hose shower always followed a mud bath.

Feeling great after her bath, Luna took off running around the yard.  Of course, she wasn’t going into my house covered in mud.  Hose still in hand, I managed to stop her before  she could reach the dirt driveway.

Apparently, the well water was cooler and more satisfying than the puddle, for Luna stood poised while I sprayed her down from head to tail until every hair was once again its lovely ebony.   Finally setting her free, I called all dogs to the back yard.  Luna did her happy 360 dance, prance and run.  Next thing I know, she’s  scratching her back on the dirt driveway.  Ugh! What can I do but laugh at my girl’s silly antics.  She’s having so much fun, loving life, being a dog, and happy, happy, happy!

Once again, I grab the stinker who now has burrs, twigs, and who knows what else in her coat.  Watered down once more, I wisely keep her close as I lead her into the fenced in yard.   Hours later, I smile as I look at Luna twitching and running as she sleeps.  Yeah, laughter is good for what ails you.

Sweet, silly, sneaky Luna.  Her antics, along with her siblings keep me laughing and smiling daily!
Sweet, silly, sneaky Luna. Her antics, along with her siblings keep me laughing and smiling daily!

Hopeful Progress


I returned home from Alabama a week ago.  I never thought much of  ‘Bama’ before though thrilled to mark it off as the 47th state Alabamathat I visited.  Before landing in Birmingham, my knowledge of Alabama was limited to its ignoble role in civil rights history and the crimson tide at University of Alabama.  Now I know that U. of Alabama is in Tuscaloosa (and its a beautiful campus).  I know tall

Evergreen forests blanket Alabama's landscape
Evergreen forests blanket Alabama’s landscape

evergreen trees blanket the hilly landscape. And I discovered hope for a healthier life in Alabama.

While not yet fully recovered from my surgery, I notice major changes in my body.  My headaches are gone.  I have not experienced phantom stabbing pain since I left the hospital in Alabama nor have I felt constant aching in joints.  I can’t say that I’m clear-headed as I’m still taking pain medicine but I don’t feel like I’m in a fog either.  As for sleep, I think that I am still recovering from the surgery and travel, but I’m hopeful (yes, truly full of hope!) that my sleep patterns are improving.

The biggest challenge now is my diet.  For 3 months, I am forbidden to eat bread and meat, not even chicken or fish, until my esophagus heals completely.  For now, I’m keeping gluten-free.  I wish I could say that I’m starting with a clean plate and healthy eating but I don’t write fiction.  The gallons of ice cream in my freezer likely will keep me from losing the 30 pounds I’m expected to lose.

Yes, I am hopeful.  I am becoming a believer in Dr. Pridgen and his medical wisdom.  And my confidence is growing that the FDA will approve the treatment later this year (yes, in 2013) and  real help will finally become available to the tens of thousands of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue sufferers.

Hoping for a New Beginning


Yesterday, my mom and I met with Dr. William Pridgen, Dr. P., about the treatment for fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.  The journey for Dr. P began when he sought successful treatment for patients he saw as a gastroenterologist.  Suffering from more symptoms than GERD, and alternating diarrhea and constipation, Dr. P. tried regimens of a combination of antivirals and found that medications treating herpes simplex type 1 proved highly successful.

As I discussed in my earlier posting, I contacted Dr. P. and am in Tuscaloosa this week.  In our meeting yesterday, I learned a bit about the biology about the herpes virus Dr. P believes to lives in the stomach.  I shared more of my history.   I found Dr. P not only knowledgeable and caring but funny, approachable, and surrounded by a wonderful staff.   I never felt rushed and just another patient on the assembly line.  I allowed myself a glimmer of hope at last.

After our meeting, I felt overwhelmed with the possibility that my health may change – truly change.  Fibromyalgia and CFS have been a part of my life for longer than not.  I allow myself moments to dream about exercise without fear of crashing, traveling without planning post-travel crash, less brain fog.  I’m sure my keys will always walk away from where I leave them no matter how healthy and clear-headed I may become.

Tomorrow, I have a procedure that repairs my esophagus due to high volume acid from my stomach.  Apparently, the esophagus is the second part of the body  damaged from fibromyalgia.  The gallbladder is the first to go and I thought the surgeon who removed mine several years ago was  a hack since my symptoms continued.  Dr. P assures me the organ had likely stopped functioning.

Post-surgery, I  begin new medications, mostly antivirals, intended to put the nasty herpes virus back to a permanent coma.  The process is not immediate but the results are astonishingly successful.  In fact, there is a study for this treatment in 11 centers around the country beginning in March that the FDA is watching closely.  The plan is for 2013  the year a truly viable treatment becomes available, with FDA approval, for successfully treating fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome!

Can you imagine?! No more trial and error of medications.  No more frustrations that doctors can’t really help and only support groups and bloggers understand.  Hope  for better health for sufferers of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome may soon become viable.

I may not post for a while, depending on my energy from surgery and traveling back home but I will at the very least try to keep updates on my Facebook page, LB Webb Coaching.  http://www.facebook.com/pages/LB-Webb-Coach-for-people-with-Chronic-Illness-Pain/328980187115314

LIKE my page so you receive automatic updates on your own Facebook page.

For more information about this exciting and potentially life changing venture, visit:

www.ushapehealth.org

http://www.innovativemedconcepts.com/

The Phantom Inside Me


“Ow!” I yelp as I leaned on my wrist a bit too heavily.

“What did you do now?”, my husband asked.

“Nothing. It’s just the phantom is in my wrist today.”

This is a common exchange between me and my husband.  He seems to think that I’m a klutz.  Just because he’s seen me stub and break a couple of toes and observed countless bruises on my legs from bumping into things doesn’t mean all my pain is the result of some self-induced injury.

ghostI call these mystery pains, ‘the phantom’, as they mysteriously attack and leave various joints without warning.  These are the traveling pains that are sharp and cause weakness to the joints.  If the pain is in my ankle, I am unable to walk.  If it moves to my wrist, I cannot open a jar or bend down to kiss my husband.  In about 10 minutes, the attacker is gone and there are no lingering effects.

Sometimes I wish that there was  evidence that these illegal immigrants invaded my body.  There is no joint swelling and test results are negative when I visit the doctor in acute pain.  It confounds me every time that my symptoms rule out other diseases and rule in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.  I feel relief that  rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or another serious more life threatening illness tests return negative but frustrated that there is never a definitive answer only ruled out diseases.  Furthermore, the elusiveness of these dual illnesses admittedly cause emotional setbacks at times.

Then, my husband says something to make me smile or I watch my dogs interact with each other or with the cat and my low mood transforms to joy at the simple pleasures that life offers.  The phantom slips back into hiding for a bit.  Yeah, I have discomforts in life but they are nothing compared to the simple moments that bring me joy.  I’m so lucky.

Homer and Zoe, who now romps in eternal fields and streams, made me laugh daily with their wrestling moves.
Homer and Zoe, who now romps in eternal fields and streams, made me laugh daily with their wrestling moves.

 

Luna and Homer at play at the lake.
Luna and Homer at play at the lake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My hubby being silly on face time with grand twins. I wonder if this cowboy would kill me if he knew I posted this but that's what he gets for not reading my blog.
My hubby being silly on face time with grand twins. I wonder if this cowboy would kill me if he knew I posted this but that’s what he gets for not reading my blog.