A Fresh Look at Illness and Death

Micrograph showing that the papillae in papill...

Micrograph showing that the papillae in papillary thyroid carcinoma are composed of cuboidal cells. H&E stain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Considering how pervasive illness and death is in our lifetimes, it still usually comes as surprise when you hear about it.

When I learned my voiceover compatriot Lynne had thyroid cancer, I gasped aloud.  When her note explained she had thyroid surgery, my eyes bulged in shock.  Now writing in her blog, Prognosis Positive, even Lynne explained that some 27 million Americans have some sort of thyroid issue.  When you think of 27 million people having a thyroid issue, it stands to reason that a someone you know would likely have a thyroid problem, even thyroid cancer.  But logical theory always seems to shock when the practical reality becomes a living, breathing person you know who has an icky disease.  The news was especially tender to me since I am one of those 27 million people with a thyroid condition (hypothyroidism) as are two of my siblings (hyperthyroidism).

And then I heard about the death of cousin Marv.  Marvin was 75 and still his death was sudden and to many of the us relatives, unexpected.  Seventy-five is a respectable and (by today’s standards) a somewhat young age to push up daisies.  Just as the news of Lynne’s thyroid cancer shocked me, so did the news of Marv’s death.

At Marv’s wake in Wisconsin, relatives and friends packed the funeral home, with an hour or more wait in line to pay respects.  Amid illness and death, everyone looked vital and healthy.  Chatter of relatives and friends filled the room, catching up, checking in, learning what was new and interesting in everyone’s lives.

“How is your book coming along?” cousin Joanne asked me when we found time to have a chat.  A little like molasses, it slowly moved forward. Of all my relatives, Joanne is among the most interesting.  Single at 50, she adopted her first daughter.  At 60, she adopted her second.  As she career as a nursing professor waned, she hung out her shingle as a solo practitioner in healing touch.  “Have you looked at the chakras affected by your accident?” she inquired.

Leave it to Joanne, in her late 70s, to remind me to look at the metaphysical issues behind illness and death.  There is always a voice to illness and even death, if you care to look deep enough.  I took her suggestion to heart and took a look at the chakras, once again.  When someone reminds you to look again, maybe it’s a voice you should hear again.

Thyroid is a 5th chakra issue.  The leg relates to the 1st, or root, chakra.  This from www.chakrahealing.com:

Fifth Chakra/Throat
Resting at the back of your throat, the throat chakra is more than just the words you speak. It is the mouthpiece by which you communicate your truths. Energy from the fifth chakra is rightly associated with a pure blue color – representing the ‘true blue’ essence of your soul. When you express your thoughts, beliefs, and opinions to others, you are sharing this essence through your energy. Appropriately, the Sanskrit word for this chakra center is vishuddha, meaning “pure place.”  All forms of human expression – including body language, spoken words, writing, dance, music, or art – profess certain truths inherent to our existence.  As we find ourselves progressing through life, we must learn to effectively communicate our ideas without bringing harm to others; simultaneously we need to be able to obtain what we want using our own words. It can be difficult to achieve a balance between speaking up and being quiet.

A person with a closed Throat Chakra might feel as though they ‘don’t speak the language’ – that is, they aren’t able to use their words to share their thoughts with others. This inhibition might stem from fear; past experiences of ridicule or embarrassment can cause some to choose to remain quiet. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some people who experience fifth chakra imbalances talk incessantly, where their fear lies in hearing silence. People that resort to lying to hide their true intentions, or to avoid hurting others also deny the energy of their Throat Chakra. Fifth chakra deficiencies can also contribute to physical ailments including bronchitis, ear infections, hearing problems, laryngitis, mouth ulcers, and tonsillitis.

1st Chakra/Root Chakra

The Root Chakra  is a flowing spring of energy which connects us to the earth and to each other. As the first of the human body’s seven energy centers it is the source of the low-frequency waves that drive our most basic survival needs, including our primal urges. In ancient Sanskrit, this place is referred to as muladhara, the foundation. It is the scarlet red Root Chakra energy emanating from the base of the spine that accounts for not only our connection to the physical aspects of our being, but also our sense of comfort, security, and belonging within the world. Beginning at birth, we are faced with situations that challenge our very existence. In these instances it is energy from the Root Chakra that feeds into the adrenal gland above the kidneys and activates our instinctual “fight-or-flight” response.

Given this role in our well-being, it is not surprising that a blocked Root Chakra center can result in difficulties meeting or moving beyond essential needs. Recurring financial struggles, weight and food issues, deep-rooted family problems, and an inability to create long-term happiness or stability are all manifestations of a deficient Root Chakra center. Blockages can also be observable as variety of physical ailments, including chronic fatigue syndrome, Epstein Barr virus, colitis, Crohn’s disease, or cancer.

So, I must ask:  Have you ever lost your voice or felt you weren’t grounded?

If we keep looking at the cause of “dis-ease” maybe then we won’t be so surprised by it.

 

Advertisements

Chance Encounters

May is a uniquely busy month for parents with school-age children.  As the school year ends, there are celebrations galore – from the athletic banquet to the spring concert, the father-daughter dance, the girl scout bridging ceremony and the end of the basketball travel team league.  At a certain point, any sane adult simply starts going through the motions.  My mental state was precisely there as I joined the line cascading around the corner for entry to the Spring Show, the annual song-fest where each of eight grades and kindergarten sings a couple of numbers.

Directly behind me in line stood R and her daughter M, the teenage girl burned in a home accident just weeks before.  Thick white burn tape provided a necklace around her neck and her arm was tightly bandaged in the same special tape.  Before I knew it, I had re-introduced myself to R and told them I too was burned as a child.  As I said it, I like itching myself.  It seemed to come from my stomach, which turned itself slightly at the thought.  As we talked, M shared, “I itch all the time.  It’s constant.”  I remembered the feeling well.  Insatiable itching that seemed to crawl inside with no good way to relieve it.  M also said that her burns were second degree, which immediately relieved me and I told her how well she would heal.  It’s the 3rd degree burns that leave the nasty scars — 2nd degree can heal with nary a reminder.

When they asked what happened to me, I told them about my burn accident, then gently rolled up my pant leg to show them a little of the scars.  “Yours seems so much worse than mine,” M said and I immediately felt bad that she focused on my injury when hers was so recent and raw, itching as it healed.  Her mother R looked and me, her eyes brimming with wet and said, “See M, look at Anne.  She’s successful and pretty.  We can make it through this.  It didn’t stop her.”

Like me, M didn’t like it when people stared at her.  We talked about “to tell” or not to tell strategies, to make eye contact or not to.  M seemed remarkably mature for a teenager.  She had a presence.

“M, it may not feel like it right now, but your burns are a gift.  Look how they help you teach other people.”  I believed it as I said it.  It would not have been the gift I’d chosen for myself, but I always felt right with it.

The line began to disperse as we entered the school gym for the Spring Show.  R hugged me tightly whispering, “thank you” as they wandered off to their places.

As the 4th graders began “Getting to Know You,” from the Lion King, I wondered:  How much more difficult are these burns for a parent? R was there when M’s leaned over the gas stove and her scarf caught fire.  She choked up as she told me about it.  They are replacing the stove with a smooth-topped electric model.  I understand.

Swim Suit Secrets

Magic Kingdom Fireworks

Image by d4rr3ll via Flickr

Renee and I had taken our daughters to the Magic Kingdom and after two action-packed days at the Disney Parks, we chose Sunday to lounge by the pool while the girls swam.  She knows my story well and so my scars were nothing new even in bathing suit format.  But hers, well, she had never told me about them and the plot thickened.

Renee was 12 and boiling water to make hot dogs.  Somewhere in the transfer to the counter, hot dogs still boiling away, she jiggled the pot.  Hot oily water gushed on to her thigh.  Renee watched as the boiling water seared her skin, sealing her tights to her upper leg.   The times being the times, Renee tried to self treat second-degree burns.  “More than anything else, I remember the pain.  I had to peel the fabric of the tights off my leg,” she said.  Over time, the skin on her thigh turned an unsightly black.  Horrified she peeled it back time and time again.  It took a year to heal.  She used home remedies to speed the healing because her family didn’t take her to the hospital for treatment.

Now, the scars on her thigh healed to a faded pattern of reddish blotches. Renee needed to point them out to me.   I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.

As we lay by the pool, I couldn’t get Renee’s story out of my mind.  It consumed me for hours.  Was it better to remember the searing pain so vividly as she did?  Was it worse to remember peeling blackened skin from your leg?  Was it more common than not that families in the 70s didn’t rush to hospitals for home accidents?

Much as I have tried, I have yet to find anyone who can tell me the blow-by-blow details of my accident.  I don’t remember the pain of the majority of the surgeries, only the one I had when I was 18.  I don’t remember blackened skin but surely it was there.  My burns were third degree, a notch up from Renee’s.  It amazed me to see how her burns had healed, how they were all but hidden.

It seems to me that everyone has at least one vivid childhood story.  An accident.  An incident.  A hurt that may not have yet healed.

It feels good to hear someone else’s story, in this case a poolside secret, a swim suit story.  Do you have a secret to share?

Everyone Has Setbacks

No matter how hard you try to avoid it, adversity finds it way into everyone’s life — with varying degrees of nastiness and of course, opportunity. That’s why I find Roger Ebert‘s story so inspirational. Thyroid and salivary cancer destroyed his ability to speak and still, he found a way awaken his voice.  It is courageous to let life transform us. Read this story from CBS Newshttp://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/01/02/sunday/main7205367.shtml

Burns and Autoimmune Crises

For the better part of the last week, I’ve been fighting a nasty cold-with-low-grade-fever-type infection funk replete with not one but now two cold sores accompanying me on my lip and nose. To my mind, I’m in an autoimmune crisis right now. I’ve been to the endocrinologist who asked, “Do you think your thyroid levels might be low?” and to which I replied, “Well, I typically do not get this many cold sores when my thyroid levels are in the right range.” As far as autoimmune strength is concerned, I generally fare much better than others with really serious issues like rheumatoid arthritis (which my sister has) or juvenile diabetes (which my brother has). But look at just about any research and you’ll see that those who have suffered serious burns (like me) tend to have compromised immune systems of varying degrees. Growing up, I had what I considered to be more than my fair share of colds, bronchitis, strep throat and of course, mono (I was quarantined for two weeks) and a little psoriasis here and there (mostly on my elbow). Thyroid came later. All of which means that when I’m run down, I tend to get sick and stay sick longer than seems fair. In fairness, I can’t blame only the burn injury however much I would like to. But it’s another area where I wonder what affect those burns actually have had on me.

Many People Write About Burns

Cover of "The Burn Journals"

Cover of The Burn Journals

If you poke around, you’ll see (as I have) that many people write about burns. Recently I finished Burned: A Memoir (www.louisenayer.com), and was fascinated by this book because it describes the effect of a mother’s burn on her daughter. I contacted Louise to ask her some questions about why she wrote the book and we’ve developed a communication of sorts. Other books I need to explore include Burned But Not Broken (www.michaeljnolte.com), Nothing Left to Burn (www.jayvarner.com) and The Burn Journals (www.burnjournals.com).

I’m not sure if the world needs another burn memoir but I still want to publish mine and I realize even from this handful of books that my story is completely different than these. Every burn it seems is unique.

Have You Ever Been Burned?

Have you ever been burned by something in life?  Most of us have.  My burns were 3rd degree, which is severe but they didn’t get in the way of much that I wanted to do in life.  Yes, I was self-conscious and still am (my burns cover my legs, but mostly my right leg).  As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that everyone has some “burn” — whether it be visible or not, they are there for all of us.  My goal in writing this blog is to tell the story of how resolution found me.  It was not something I was looking for or thought I needed.  Yet when it came it was a wonderful blessing and I want to tell the story.