Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Book Synopsis: The Last Lecture

I'm a little behind the curve on reading the latest best-sellers. But then that means I can get them at the library or really cheap used. So, I finally got around to reading The Last Lecture by (the late) Randy Pausch.

If you're like my husband, and unable to read or talk about death, then this book will not be enjoyable for you. But if you're like me, and you've already faced your own mortality, the mentions of death, mortality and illness won't bother you. That's not really what the book is about- it's about living life fully. But to understand why he is giving the lecture, you have to know the circumstances of his life. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, one of the scariest cancers with the highest mortality rates. He was given months to live. According to his blog, he seems to have lived 2 years after diagnosis, thanks in part to a radical surgery shortly after diagnosis. Randy and his wife had 3 young kids, and he had a career he loved, so he had every reason to live, and this lecture was his attempt to bottle up everything he wanted to tell their kids once they were old enough to understand it. We just get to listen in. The lecture was given live at the university where he worked; they actually had a legacy of "last Lectures," where, strangely enough, professors were asked to give a lecture addressing "What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance." And the author was asked to speak in the series.

The book is not a transcript of the lecture. It was written afterward, as Randy went on long bike rides and his co-author transcribed the conversation. It's something of a memoir, but Randy tries to squeeze in as many life lessons as possible throughout. The most tangible, practical advice is contained in his time management section. When you haven't got much time to live, you haven't got any to waste, so here's a guy who knows the value of time management. FYI, it is not really about conquering or living with illness.

I found it an easy, uplifting read with some good advice on conducting your life.

Right now I am reading Eat to Live. I actually had lunch at the same table as Dr Fuhrman and his wife yesterday. They live what they preach and are very passionate about nutrition and healing. More on that soon. My progress on that book may be slowed a bit by my intermittent reading of David Leee Roth's autobiography (gotta balance out that Last lecture seriousness somehow, right?)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What British health care is really like

Here is an e mail from a friend of mine, who is British and has been fighting myeloma for the last year or so. He wanted to et the record straight about government health care in England. (FYI I don't have a direct line of communication to Sarah Palin.)

Dear Carla
You're American - tell that lunatic Sarah Palin to stop peddling lies about our National Health Service! It appears from over here that some rather ugly people are coming out of the woodwork to try and persuade you all that the British NHS is some kind of communist conspiracy that, if adopted in the US will result in bodies lying in the street (I thought that was what happened after Hurricane Katrina thanks to neglected flood defences...) and doctors arbitrarily deciding who lives and dies.

Sure, the NHS isn't perfect, far from it is some respects due to our idiot government's obsession with targets being met to produce good-looking statistics, hence a top-heavy administration full of box-tickers and not enough actual workers like cleaners in some areas. I can't say though that I have anything to complain about after my experiences. While I was cooped up during most of February in the (spotlessly clean) isolation room, I asked one of the nurses what the difference was between the way I was being accomodated and treated and the private patients on another floor. She said they got a compliemntary newspaper and a better view out of the window.

What did you tell me about how much your various drugs had cost you in the last year? I think you mentioned the figure of $7000. Here in April they made cancer drugs free - previously I had been supplied with all my stuff using a card costing about $150 for a year, irrespective of the quantities. Prior to that I had to pay about $12 for each prescription, sometimes three or four a time, so the high use card became the better option, but as I say now no charge at all.

I wonder if Ms Palin gets paid by the drug and insurance companies in cash or with stock options and Mercedes sports cars.

There, I feel better now, having a little rant about these BS merchants!

Hope things are good with you. Best wishes

Monday, August 3, 2009

Book Synopsis: Lupus Novice: Toward Self-Healing

Okay, just got done reading another lupus memoir:

Lupus Novice: Toward Self-Healing
by Laura Chester
original copyright 1987; 3rd edition 1999

How strange that I spent my first 17 years dealing with lupus having no idea that there was even *one* lupus memoir out there, and now in the course of a few weeks, i've read 2. And both books were out there in the world the entire time. Well, there was no internet when I first started my search for answers. And now, thanks to amazon.com, it's very easy to find a book (or 2 - or 3 - or 10) on just about anything now.

This author's lupus first showed up as discoid (skin) and progressed to involved joints and fatigue. She was married and had children at the time of onset. Her writing is very descriptive, poetic at times. Sometimes I'm a little uncomfortable with the level of personal detail- I feel like I'm reading someone's diary!- but I suppose that's how a memoir is supposed to be written. She is a writer by profession, both before and after the publication of this book. I actually prefer to read memoirs by people who are not professional writers, because it feels more like a conversation and less like a work of art. But maybe I'm just a lazy reader.

Writing style preference aside, this book is intriguing and important. Like the first memoir I read, Heartsearch, this author also searches the depths of her soul for any emotional poisons that may be at the least, inhibiting her healing, or at worst, actually causing her illness.

Like me, Laura resisted prednisone for months, trying various other medications and natural remedies first, until she was worn down into submission.

Laura uses some things I'm familiar with, such as juicing, detoxification, massage, coffee enemas, homeopathy, faith healing, yoga, bach flower remedies, prayer, affirmation, writing, talk therapy (and of course prednisone and placquenil; and stress and sun avoidance), but also some things I've never heard of, despite the fact that they've been around for decades: Certain teas, Eurythmy and anthroposophic healing.

Well it took me 17 years to find her book, so clearly I'm not at the hub of "breaking alternative medicine for lupus news."

Interesting note: both this author and the author of Heartsearch used and benefitted greatly from anthroposophic healing. I'm intrigued!

The anthroposophic approach, pioneered by the late Austrian, Rudolph Steiner, is about soul struggle, and resolving that. Well, who couldn't use that, even if they don't have lupus? It seems to be really hard work, but well worth it, and it seems that if you can lift the burden of inner conflict from yourself, it's much easier to heal physically. Maybe there is some truth to the claim of my friend Rosemarie, who says "All illness starts on an energetic level. By the time it manifests physically, it's a metaphor."

Or maybe a physical illness is just a physical illness and easing yourself of the stress of negative emotions allows you to heal. Maybe the answer lies somewhere in the middle. We do know you can't really separate mind and body. They are intertwined. When you do something good for the body, you feel better emotionally and vice versa.

Back to the memoir: While the author admits that her case of lupus was not as severe as many, she does state in this, the 3rd edition that she has been relatively free of lupus symptoms (except for skin eruptions from overexposure to the sun) and off the meds for 20 years. This is very good news and reason for all of us to hope for and work for a life off the meds and free from the big bad wolf.

I've veered from my stated mission, "Lupus and humor"- If you're looking for humor, read the oldest posts.
I'm just presently on a search for more and deeper answers.

Coming soon: my thoughts on:
Healing Lupus: Steps in a Personal Journey by Waverly Evans
This one is a workbook, so it may take me a while to have any useful comments to offer. But it is important to note that the author also encourages deep emotional work and claims "I do not have lupus anymore." Now that's the kinda news I'm looking to hear.