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Winning and Thriving

Shannon Knight survived breast cancer twice. Like millions of others, she was faced with the challenge of deciding how to save her life. She refused chemotherapy and did some radiation and mastectomy. When conventional medicine failed, her she discovered alternative healing at a hospital in Mexico. It was because of her courage and willingness to go on searching for alternative cancer treatment that she is alive today. She survived! The death sentence hanging over her head has been removed for over five years.
Shannon is now a cancer advocate and certified life coach who has assisted many survivors who struggle with the emotional issues connected with cancer. She has been a guest on radio shows and featured in documentaries.

She has deep empathy and compassion for all cancer warriors and understands what an individual goes through once they learn of a cancer diagnosis. She can relate with having to choose treatment and how difficult it is deciding how to save your own life, especially if your doctor has given you only so much time to live.

Shannon Knight is a survivor and thriver. Having survived breast cancer twice, including stage 4, she was faced with the challenge and fear of how to save her life. She refused chemotherapy and did some radiation and mastectomy. When conventional medicine failed, her she discovered alternative healing at a hospital in Mexico. It was because of her courage and willingness to go on searching for alternative cancer treatment that she is alive today. She survived! The death sentence hanging over her head has been removed for over five years.
Since then, Shannon has become a cancer advocate and continues her education in order to help in her mission. With training as a certified life coach and other training, she helps survivors dealing with emotional issues from cancer.

Mending a Broken Heart

I think most of us have had to deal with a broken heart in our lives. The pain is excruciating.
In fact, I have had a heart break so bad that I just wanted someone to put me to sleep until time passed away. I was not suicidal at all, but the pain was too unbearable.

The American Heart Association explains that when you have a broken heart broken heart it is a syndrome! It is known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy, which can have the same sensations as a heart attack. The symptoms include shortness of breath and rapid, severe chest pain that follows an emotional occurrence.

A new shocking study of 485 patients by European Heart Journal carried out tests to trigger emotional feelings, and as a result, 20 people were found to have experienced broken heart syndrome after an instance of joy. What was found baffling to Dr. Steven Schiff was that he had seen this a dozen times and it’s almost always been 95% of the participants this was found in were women.

This has baffled doctors as they aren’t sure why this occurs, but according to cardiologist Dr. Steven Schiff, “I’ve seen this a dozen times. It’s almost always been women.”Dr. Malissa Wood states that “it’s probably tied somehow into estrogen levels.”

While many consider broken heart syndrome to only occur in postmenopausal women, she’s also seen it happen with younger women under the 30s and 40s age group.

Amidst all the scary facts, broken heart syndrome isn’t related with any threatening factors and can easily be recovered from.

How do you remedy a broken heart? It hurts so bad especially when you wake up the very next day after the spiral downward from joy. You wake up and then feel a jolt when you remember why your heart aches. You feel deep loss or betrayal. You wish you were dreaming and you feel powerless.

We start to break it down and ask questions like, “What did I do wrong?” or, “Why did he leave me?” You have a choice at this point; do you escape the pain or do you deal with it head on? If it was your fault you would need to apologize, and this may not repair all the damage, but it will keep you from staying in guilt mode which will destroy your spirit even more. Remorse is good, but guilt is destructive if you dwell on it. So what do you do?

Sometimes we use temporary things to cover up our pain instead of healing the brokenness.
Think your pain as a wound or broken bone that needs tending. If you had the power to numb your broken leg and continued to walk on it so you could escape the pain. This causes further damage. When you have a broken heart, it is tempting to cover the pain with substances like alcohol or drugs. You could also rush right into another relationship without thinking it through fully. It helps with a temporary avoidance of feeling pain. These are all temporary fixes and what you need are time and support. Let the healing happen. It will hurt but then over time, slowly but surely, you will heal and mend properly.

Here are the four steps for healing the heart:

1. Be good to yourself. Understand that this pain is temporary and you deserve goodness.
allow yourself 2-3 days to fall to pieces and cry. Eat that ice cream and watch funny movies! (No love stories!)
2. Healing takes time. Find things to do like daily body movement vs exercise. Dancing releases endorphins, Swimming is gentle, riding a bike and taking in your surroundings. A walk on the beach or lake. Be patient. Take your time.
3. If you did something wrong and need to make amends, write a letter or meet with the person to apologize.
4. Forgive yourself. Forgive them too. This is how you will truly heal.
5. Allow someone who is a very good listener to be your support. They may need you someday and you are not a burden.

Healing your heart is a process but it is not the end of love for you. You will love again and you will be loved.

Shannon Knight

Physician Grief

Often I have thought about doctors and their grief. Too often they get the bad rap for being desensitized. Is this the case though? I remember the first time I thought about what a doctor must go through was in 1998 when I saw the very first scene from the movie City of Angels with Meg Ryan and Nicholas Cage. She had failed with surgery and felt so responsible. It’s been years since I lost my grandparents to cancer, but I still wonder if the feeling of grief hit the doctors when their patient passed away.

Do doctors grieve when their patients die? Yes, according to a report in the journal Death Studies a group of internal medicine colleagues found a report that said not only do doctors experience grief, but if they show their emotions in the professional arena there will be professional consequences for themselves as to the quality of care they give to patients
The study took place from 2010 to 2011 in three Canadian hospitals. Twenty oncologists who varied in age, sex, and ethnicity and had a broad range of experience in the field were interviewed. They found that oncologists struggled managing emotions and experienced feelings of failure, self-doubt, sadness and powerlessness in spite of the necessary detachment to do their job. The study also revealed that even though they struggled with feelings of grief, they hid them from others because showing emotion was considered a sign of weakness. Many said that it was the first time they had been asked about these emotions at all.

Doctors get a bad rap from many loved ones because of their grief. The grief that we don’t see from doctors is what we complain about and exactly what we don’t want our doctors to experience: inattentiveness, impatience, irritability, emotional exhaustion and burnout.
Half of the participants from this study reported that their discomfort with their grief over patient loss could affect their treatment decisions— leading them, to provide more aggressive chemotherapy, to put a patient in a clinical trial, or to recommend further surgery when palliative care might be a better option. Some oncologists are unable to stop treatment when it is clearly futile, and “they should” discontinue treatment. They keep trying.

Many physicians will distance themselves from their patients, scheduling fewer appointments because they are uneasy about losing patients. Some don’t have the ability to communicate about end-of-life issues with the patients and their families. The visits are fewer with them by their bedside in the hospital less effort is directed toward the dying patient.

Most physicians want what is best for their patients even if the outcome is an inevitable dealing with the end of life. It is never comfortable for physicians who are expected to deal with end-of-life, so they put up some emotional boundaries: can you imagine if they didn’t?
There would be doctors walking around openly expressing their grief, and this would be unacceptable professionally.

Unexpressed grief has proven to have an adverse impact on the personal lives of oncologists. Oncologists are for the most part not trained to deal with “their grief, just to suppress it. It is not easy to normalize death and sorrow in a medical setting. Talking about this to a patient or family will always cause distress because they will refrain from showing emotional grief. Avoiding the topic simply because they are all out of options to improve the quality of their life or extend the patient’s life is very distressing.

To improve the quality of end-of-life care for patients and their families is important as well as helping them with their grief but we also need to recognize that the quality of life of their physicians is important too because they are the ones trusted to care for their loved ones. Often the grief-stricken family will blame the doctor, and the medical community does not provide opportunity or space for them to grieve like everyone else.

I understand better now what doctors must do to get through their grief. I respect them and I recommend people share this information so we can get a better understandng of what they must do to keep it together emotionally so they can do the job as professionally as we need them to.

Sunday Review New York Times
When Doctors Grieve
Gray Matter

You are Not Alone 

Have you ever been consumed with these thoughts?

“You do not want to  burden anyone.”

“If you I died, it would take weeks before anyone noticed you were gone.”

“No one would miss you.”

“When you are sick, no one cares about you.”

None of this is true. Perhaps you have made loneliness your constant companion that has become a hidden secret to those who love you.  Maybe when you are around loved ones, you find they are too critical of you during a crisis.  Does your loneliness come and go? Do you isolate because you feel like you are an outcast? Does your loneliness come and go? Monday you feel support and loved and then a few days where you feel alone and abandoned?  Are you going through a critical time with illness or grieving because of a loved one who is ill or grieving a death?

 I speak with many women and hear their sadness or frustration when this happens to them. Why did my family abandon me when I needed them most?  The confusion when they separate from you during the worst time of your life is heart-wrenching.Sometimes loved ones will have a critical opinion of your life choices for many different things. Perhaps it’s your selection of cancer treatment, or maybe you experienced trauma or a divorce. It can be very embarrassing for them even to begin to imagine how you allowed bad things to happen to you. They may see you as foolish for your choice.

Your life journey is personal, as is theirs. Their attitude towards you and your choices do not define you. Seeing you vulnerable and going through emotional pain can be extremely uncomfortable for them. They may back away, change the subject when yo want to talk about trauma towards you because many people just can’t handle it. They are not equipped and feel awkward if they cannot help or make things better. Some people you trusted may gossip and add another layer of trauma to your life.

The only thing you can do is let go. Do so with love for your own peace of mind. I know it hurts, however, if you resent them, you will suffer. Your health will be affected. I have heard many sad stories, and I can empathize. Letting go with love and prayer was the best.  You are never alone, and someone is waiting to help you if you wish to reach out. Here are some tips on combatting loneliness:

1. Nurture others. When we nurture someone else, it contributes to alleviating your loneliness

2. Get adequate sleep: Sleep deprivation can bring down our moods.  Get a routine for a great nights sleep.

3. Make a distinction between needing solitude and loneliness. Embrace solitude with peace, creativity, and restoration.  Loneliness feels draining, sad and very distracting.

4. Write a journal and get some clarity on what is missing in your life that would make you feel less lonely. When we see a problem written down on paper, it is easier to write down a solution to find out what is missing in your life.

5. Take initiative to connect with people. Adverse feelings of loneliness,  shame, envy, and guilt are indicators that something needs to change. That lonely feeling you have means it is imperative to connect with other people.  Sometimes negative emotions will get in the way and put up a wall for others to get close to you. There are steps you can take to get help with what you are going through so you can counter it. 

Teen Memories

Who remembers?

I remember that telephone with the tangled cord on the kitchen wall. My sisters and I would get 15 minutes to talk and have to take turns. This meant trying to set up plans for our weekend. We memorized so many phone numbers! If we dialed it wrong, we’d try it again with a different sequence; a few times if we had to.

I got my first job when I was 15. I walked to work most of the time until I could afford a car at age 19. I remember my friends and me knocking on each other’s doors to see if a friend was home to come outside and just hang out.

The first record 8 track I owned was Carole King, my first vinyl record was Cher: Gypsies Tramps and Thieves and my first 45 was Olivia Newton John, Please Mister Please.

Spending a day with friends at the theater going to the “Holiday Theater” in West Hills Ca. for 49 cents to watch great movies like Grease, Orca, and Jaws.

Summer nights sitting on the hood of a car with friends to listen to music and talk.

Passing notes in class to a friend had its risks unless your friend happened to sit right next to you, you’d need a chain of accomplices to get your neatly folded note across a room. You had to consider it’s path and who you trust to pass it. Some might be trustworthy. Others, not so much.

I remember rides in the back of a pickup with neighborhood friends to the store, the creek or just to other friend’s houses! Riding with friends in the back of the truck on a warm summer night was adventurous.

I remember four wheeling in the Simi Valley Hills, We had CB radios to try and find each other. There were train tunnels we’d walk through (crazy), and the bonfire parties listening to music on a car stereo.

I loved music and creating variety cassette tapes of favorite songs was my thing. I would sit the cassette player right in front of the radio or record player to make these custom tapes. There was the recorded background noise of course which included my mom coming into the room and telling me to go outside and play, or my brother or sisters yelling in the hallway. “Ugh, shhh” you’re ruining my recording!