Seasons of Support! By Maria De Leon

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take a deep breath and trust in God.:  As the holidays draw near, I am reminded of all of those of us who are grieving for the loss of a spouse, parent, friend or loved one. All loss whether physical or emotional can take a toll on those of us who are still grieving which can heighten our stress, depression and isolation if we are not careful. As the season for family and close friendships come together to celebrate the absence of a love done no longer present in mind, spirit or body can be quite troubling for many of us.

A couple of days ago, I solemnly celebrated  and mourned the passing of my father a year ago. Although, I have for the most part accustomed my self to the notion that he is no longer present in this world, as we prepare for Thanksgiving celebration, I can’t help but feel a sudden pull at my heart.

Thus, I began to wonder about my many friends and readers who have recently lost a loved one due to Parkinson’s disease or another illness if the mention of the loved one still causes emotional or spiritual pain leading to anxiety and stress? For those of us whose loved ones are still alive but no longer able to interact or be the person they once were due to this illness, we too maybe in morning feeling the same heartaches, wondering when will this be over? The hurt, the pain, the anxiety, sleepless nights, will we ever feel whole again? be able to return to a routine?

While many people commence to cope and slowly return to normal after 6 to 9 months, about 2 years after someone passes away most individuals begin to feel life anew and feel “normal.” Yet, there is no set time for getting over the grief of bereavement particularly if that person is still living and continuing to decline.

Holidays, birthdays or anniversaries can remain a source of pain accompanied by bittersweet memories that may last a long time even a life time. For me having lost someone I loved very much 7 years ago, although the initial pain is gone holidays always remind me of their absence from my life.

Before healing can commence, we must allow ourselves to properly grieve and not hold  it in. this may be a reason why so many people still struggle with the grief even years later making life much more difficult, painful, and devoid of peace.

My suggestions in dealing with any type of loss:

Be gentle with yourself as you journey through the process of grieving.

  • Give yourself time– time DOES heal all wounds but you must be able to let it go at some point and walk away from the pain. Think that either they are in a better place, no longer suffering from illness or that this too shall pass for nothing in this world last forever! Concentrate on making that one person’s life happy and meaningful and everything else will come into place.
  • Feeling– don’t be afraid to let it all out, don’t be taken back by strong emotions. I thought that being a doctor and having been there through the entire ordeal of my father’s cancer I was ready to let go when he passed and I was completely overcome with emotion after his passing. I could not believe the wave of strong emotions that flooded my heart and brain so I cried and grieved till it was time to let go. now even though I miss him truly, I am no longer grieving for his loss- I know he is in a much better place. Research actually shows that tears help restore the chemical balance in your brain, so don’t be afraid to let the water flow it will only serve to restore your health. if you are one of those people that have trouble letting the tears go sometimes a good sad movie or book is just what the doctor order for catharsis. Feeling sad is much better to the alternative being numb to emotions.
  • Talk therapy– find a strong friend who will stand by you in silence as you release all of your fears, frustration and grief. a good shoulder to cry on is essential for healthy grieving.
  • Art Therapy– sometimes no matter how much we try to cry or watch all the sad movies, we still have a hard time copping and letting go of our anger, sadness, disappointment, and guilt. one way I have found many people cope with loss whether physical, emotional or spiritual is through art therapy. sometimes writing the feelings down in a poem, other times through painting -exposing our feelings on canvas – or through mask making, as my friend Wilma Cordova professor at SFA university School of Social Work recommends.
  • Take care of yourself– this means eating right, sleeping well, exercising- believe it or not when we grieve the reason we tend to sleep so much is because that kind of sadness requires a lot of energy to be able to overcome the pain the brain is experiencing. Consider getting massages and allowing others to hug you or touch you, this releases oxytocin one of the essential chemicals in the body besides dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins which maintain healthy brain equilibrium.
  • Finally find a good network of support– to help navigate the ups and downs of the days ahead, one who will encourage your well being, will listen and even accompany you to art therapy and above all make you laugh! After all laughter is truly the BEST MEDICINE!

If you are a caregiver or friend of one – remember these words:

The After Loss Credo~ B. H. LesStrang

“…Don’t worry if you think I am getting better

And then suddenly I seem to slip backward.

Grief makes me behave this way at times.

And Please, don’t tell me you ‘know how I feel’

Or that ‘is time for me to go on with my life’

(I am already saying this to myself

what I need now [most] is time to grieve, to recover & a friend..”  

For more information on grief & loss contact: http://www.pdf.org

community social workers/ your physician ASAP- if still grieving especially if not able to sleep, having chest pain (or tightness), headaches, fatigue, & breathlessness.

Feeling Distressed Today? by Maria De Leon

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Lately, like so many of you, I too have  been feeling distressed- not being able to show up on time to events, or able to attend prior commitments. I used to be the life of the party and a person who could make plans months and years in advance and always able to keep all my commitments. I know that some of you out there living with chronic illnesses and Parkinson’s for a long time know exactly what I am talking about. I have heard many of you complain about the disappointment and distress felt when you or your loved one are no longer included in invitations to parties, gatherings, dinner etc. because you are also unable to always show -up. It’s rather an unnerving feeling knowing that people don’t count on you any longer or even expect you to show up.

While trying to get my head around these feelings experienced by all of us at one point or another when living with an illness like Parkinson’s, I began thinking about my favorite place- the beach.

I you are like me one that enjoys walking down the shore barefooted getting your feet wet as the waves dance around, you probably have taken inventory of common things found on the beach as you have taken many a leisurely promenade.

You most likely saw pier posts covered in barnacles, distressed boats and oxidized iron as you strolled on by. In another time, like us, they were pristine and remarkable to behold. I want all of us to remember and emphasize the fact that although these objects like us (or rather the way we feel sometimes) are worn, tired, chipped, dented and not so pretty to the naked eye are still Beautiful!

This is because, like us, these objects wear the scars of time, hardship, and experience with pride and genuineness. Perhaps, after the waves of PD or caregiving have pelted your body over and over through the years, you too are feeling like these distressed items. Maybe you once had a great career before PD; but even though it might have been a choice to leave it or make necessary alterations- they no longer exist in their previous form.

Like me you are also completely at peace with your life choices given the cards we have been dealt, yet there may still be days when you might feel alone and distressed. Slighted by someone’s lack of understanding, compassion, or feeling excluded may cause the ‘what-ifs’ to creep in.

But, we must not give in to guilt, sadness, much less anger. However, consider this- the only way an object gets distressed is because it has been the best in its field; therefore continuously used and of service. You have been useful and of benefit to more people than you will ever realize and you have the marks to prove it. Just like the distressed furniture found on an elegant and gorgeous beach home invite us to rest and enjoy the view thus contributing to our life’s story.

The same is true for us who are feeling worn out- you have and persistently contributing much to make someone’s past, present, and future better. Your empty seat at a business meeting, lecture hall, medical team, football game is only an indication that you have been instrumental in forging the next generation of caregivers, advocates, volunteers, citizens, and professional people. Remember, just because at the moment you are not at the table of the ‘movers and shakers’ that does not mean that you are done or finished with the work that God has put in your heart or is your destiny to complete until we are all called Home!

Let us instead dwell on the prospect that our ‘what-ifs’ might at some point blend into the ‘what-now’s.

Walk rather, on the beach or wherever you choose, always with head up high displaying your marks of distinction- which are a confluence of both your hardships and victories knowing that the past chapters were purposeful and of great impact. So, don’t try to fit in or please a crowd to avoid feeling distressed instead be your genuine self proudly displaying your years of wear battling PD along with your very own colorful bright pink eggs – like the ‘leafy sea dragons’  who although they are able to camouflage their eggs choose not to.

Go ahead, embrace your Parkinson’s disease or whatever other illness you might have and be yourself. Those that love you and matter will always be around to comfort you and support you in times of need and will always have a seat reserve just for you!

@copyright 2015

all rights reserved by Maria De León MD

 

Cancer & PD: What now ?: by Maria De Leon

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“You  promised me, Lord, that if I followed You;

You would walk with me always.

But, I have noticed that during

the most trying periods of my life

there has only been one set of footprints in the sand.

Why, when I needed You most,

have you not been there for me?

The Lord replied, “the years when you have seen only one set of footprints, My child, is when I carried you.”

excerpt from ‘Footprints in the Sand’-  author unknown

Each time I have had to confront the ‘C’ word I have found solace in this beautiful poem. I hope you can do the same knowing that you are not alone and greatly loved.

Seems like when everything is going well in our lives even with PD because symptoms are finally controlled and we are in our groove doing our own thing life is pleasant and full of possibilities. Seems that the sun might be a bit brighter than usual and the foliage we love is more colorful than previously thought. But, as things fall apart or tragedy hits our lives, we suddenly experience a souring in all our lives pleasures and activities.

You begin to think it is bad enough I have to live with Parkinson’s disease but now I have to deal with this monster called CANCER!

Some may be tempted to do nothing or become paralyzed and consumed by fear of the unknown.

Today, I just want to say “you can do it!” to those of you who are battling cancer in the midst of PD.

You are probably feeling like life is completely unfair, right about now. Well, let me put your mind at ease-IT IS!

However, this is no reason to draw up into a ball and hide under the covers- which I am sure you feel like doing some days more than others. Perfectly normal- I have been there way too many times myself. This my friend is the time to ‘summon your inner Diva’ and give it your all. When we were given a diagnosis of PD, we felt as if our world was ending but nothing compares to hearing you have cancer. Suddenly, the days seem so finite and you begin to take account of your entire life. This itself can be an eye opener because when we are faced with mortality somehow things automatically come into focus and we can clearly see what is truly important and of value in our lives. Go ahead and use this experience my esteemed reader as a chance to grow spiritually as well as an individual.

I like to think of these experiences as pearl makers!

For those of you who are oyster lovers, fresh oysters are a big treat, but  you also know how stubborn and hard the outer shell of an oyster can be. Shucking an oyster can be hazardous but sometimes can prove even more rewarding then anticipated when you discover the treasure within. We sometimes can become hardened by lives circumstances as in living with a chronic illness like PD protecting our soft, vulnerable inner self.

But, it may take another illness like cancer to put a crack in our shell causing us major irritation as a grain of sand does to the oyster which through much pain, discomfort and adversity is turned into a gem- a beautiful pearl!

First realize that you are wonderfully made and everything has a purpose and a time under the sun. Then let go of any anger, frustration, and pity party’s and concentrate on getting better.

This means take care of your Parkinson’s disease to make sure that you are strong physically and mentally to undergo any and all treatments required. Listen to your body- rest when you are tired and eat whatever your body demands -it always knows what we are lacking in. Let your friends and family pamper you and don’t try to do everything yourself or put up a front of being well when you are not. Although, the recovery will be slow and uncomfortable it will be much quicker if you allow yourself time to heal.

When I underwent radiation for my second cancer, I spent the first 6 months just sleeping. I was so exhausted that even watching a movie would  drain me. Even the last 6 months of that year- I relied on friends heavily to help me get things accomplished in the house and so on. Don’t let pride get in the way- we all need help sometimes.

Despite the fact that cancer is not easy to confront and it cant always be beaten- it does not have to get the best of us. we can still be a blessing to others.

Remember, that a spirit who is able to find good in adversity is a true gift from above.