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Winning Over Cancer Series

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http://winningovercancerseries.com/Norman-Plotkin

The Year I grew Up

We never know just how it will be at the end of life. You can think you have it figured out, you may even be sure you know what you believe and what lies ahead, but until you face it for real you just never know.

 

And the longer you have to face your mortality the more it may morph, changing, adapting, adjusting and morphing again.

 

In March my mom had a stroke. It came hard and fast and left her partially paralyzed and without speech. I had seen my mother give end of life care to several others including my grandma Helen, her mother. Mom had shown me the way to take care of her at the end.

 

She was graceful, dignified. My sister and I got her set up with hospice, which included a hospital bed in her home and a schedule of caregivers to bathe her and care for her. We called all of the grandchildren and great grandchildren and said come see her to say goodbye.

 

Initially, we had made her smoothies. On one visit by the nurse she asked us if we were trying to prolong this. We said no. She said then stop giving her the smoothies. So as directed we withdrew everything but the “comfort” package. Comfort package is code for lorazepam and morphine.

 

Mom took to the comfort package like a champ. She came to relish the flavored sponges that would wet her mouth and gave a little flavor. The hospice folks were real pros. They were caring and took time to know us. They gave us literature that was very helpful as it explained everything that we could expect so that when it happened we were prepared.

 

And just as they said, after about a week she began to shut down. She slept most of the time. One night at just after one am she left, 1:11 am exactly. And just like that a life well lived was done, an angel transitioned to another plane at 84.

 

In September my father had a stroke. Dad is 93 and has been through quadruple bypass surgery and bladder cancer. Mom had told me that he thought he would die in his fifties. But here he was, 93 and just suffered a stroke. I flew to LA to see him in the hospital.

 

I thought I knew what the next steps would be. But dad’s stroke was different. They called it a transitory episode meaning the symptoms came and went. One moment his face would be drooped on one side and a little later not so much.

 

I spoke with the physician. No more surgeries or heroic efforts. He has a medical directive and not only do I know his wishes, but he can still articulate them. Insofar as his condition was diminished by the stroke the prognosis is of progressive decline so the doctor’s orders were for hospice.

 

We got him set up at home and met with the medical staff. We went over the comfort package details and inventoried his battery of medications. Since the directive is for comfort only, the other meds were discontinued. We met with the social worker and the chaplain. Dad’s full-time care giver, Butch, and I got on the same page for his day to day care. Then I flew back to Sacramento to get back to life, staying in close contact.

 

Before I left, we had a conversation about what the end would be like. He began to cry and I asked if he thought he wouldn’t see me again. So I told him I would be back the next week.

And back I came.

 

Three days before I was to return, dad called and asked me to jump on a plane and bring a gun. He wanted me to take him to the beach and leave him in the car and he would do the rest. I said, “you know they won’t let me on a plane with a gun, dad!” I had no intention of bringing him a gun, but this gave me some insight into his state of mind.

 

When I visited next we had a deep, philosophical conversation. He started with the fact that Butch thought he was afraid. I asked him if he was. He said that yes, he probably was. So I talked to him at length about fear and how it was an emotion based largely on the unknown. He agreed that was probably the case. I suggested that he could work around the fear by defining for himself what would happen.

 

I suggested he create an elaborate scenario regarding what he could expect. Once he had imagined all of the details he should lean into it and know that it would be just that way. This way he could remove the unknown and with it the fear. He mulled it over a bit and we moved on.

 

He said Butch was catholic and thought he should come to God before the end. I told him I wasn’t sure about all of the catholic rigmarole, what with the genuflection and guilt and such, but that I thought there were worse things he could do. I shared that I believed and had faced this question in earnest when I had gone through cancer. I had talked to him about faith before and he was resistant, but now it was more poignant.

 

A math teacher, dad was a numbers guy. I asked him if he had a system when he went to Vegas. He said sure. I suggested that if he accepted God and was right the result would be eternal salvation. And if he was wrong, he asked. I said it wouldn’t really matter. He could see it as a hedge if it made him feel better. Again he paused and reflected. He said he would give it some thought.

 

It was then that he told me that when the nurse had come he had told her that he was ready to go. I asked him what she said. He told me that she said that neither Butch nor I could do anything like administer drugs or give him a gun. If he was ready all he had to do was to stop eating.

 

I asked him if he wanted me to tell him what it was like for my mom. They had been divorced for over 30 years- longer than they had been married. But he always asked about her. He said yes. So I told him how it went for her, when she stopped eating it was just a matter of a few days. I explained that the hospice folks were very good and the comfort measures they have would make him, well, comfortable as his body began to shut down.

 

Again he was reflective. He said he was tired and wanted to rest. No surprise, I was tired. We had had a wide ranging, deep conversation about things that are difficult. Butch and I put him in bed. He fell asleep and Butch sat with him while I tried to get some work done.

 

After an hour he called for me. I went into his room and held his hand as he fell asleep. He grasped my hand while he slept for two hours. It was all I could do to sit peacefully with him. I was missing a lot of work and thinking how far behind I was; I was contemplating my father’s end of life just months after my mom had transitioned; I had just had deep conversations about the difficult topic of end of life; I had been triggered to contemplate my own mortality; and I was faced with the dilemma of wanting him to pass and find peace and then feeling bad for wanting him to die. I asked God what the lesson for me was here and prayed that I learn it quickly so that he could take him, and in fact asked God to take him.

 

This is a deeply moral juxtaposition that has no immediate, nor easy resolution. I found myself in a situation that was in stark contrast to my recent experience with my mother.

 

The hospice chaplain visited and we talked. I think she came for me more than for dad as she didn’t want to wake him. We talked about the conversations that had been going on. She said he could get hungry and want to eat. I said that decision was his, that I had no agenda or expectation. She had encouraged him to be curious about what lies ahead and to try to resolve any lingering issues or regrets and at that time he had said that he felt like he had.

 

I left to go back to where I was staying and get some work done and told Butch I would be back around noon the next day.

 

When I returned the next day dad was sitting at the table eating some lunch. It was clear that he was not going to stop eating. Butch told me that he had taken dad to church in the morning and after dad said he was hungry and wanted to go to Denny’s. I told him Denny’s was probably the thing that would do him in.

 

I told him that his comfort was the most important thing and that if he wanted to eat then he should eat. I told him that no one would withhold food from him, force medicine on him or put him in a home.

 

And so life goes on. He is not taking the dozens of pills he was on before the stroke for blood pressure, blood sugar, thyroid, etc, etc, etc., and yet his blood pressure is stable and there have been no ill effects from stopping the medicines. All we can do is make him comfortable while we wait for the inevitable. Life is mysterious and sometimes it is difficult, but there are opportunities for growth and expressions of humanity in every situation.

 

My father was there for me when I was toothless and in diapers and life has given me the opportunity to return the favor and in so doing I think I have finally grown up.

A Powerful Beginning

I have had many amazing experiences using hypnotherapy to help people, but nothing even comes close to using hypnobirthing to help my daughter with the delivery of her two children.

She came to me afraid because every woman she had ever met told her terrible stories about pain and misery. She said she wanted natural child birth, but was afraid of the pain. I was taking pre-and post-surgery hypnotherapy certification and the amazing Lisa Machenberg who was teaching the course also taught hypnobirthing so I bought her outline and took Britt through six sessions.

This was a critical time, her husband, Joe, was deployed in Iraq with his Marine unit and her mom was her coach. The experience was amazing.

There was not no pain, but it was over in about 24 minutes. The nurses delivered because the doctor didn’t get there in time.

So when the opportunity arose again, we jumped right in. This time we included hubby. The longest part of this delivery was the three hours of labor waiting to sufficiently dilate. Once there, it was three pushes over 15 minutes and the baby shot out and the doctor caught her!

During this time, Britt had the recording of the hypno session playing out loud. The nurses and the doctor were amazed and when Britt told them it was her dad, more so.

Who do you know who could benefit from a more natural, powerful beginning?

Exercise Your Power

Seven years ago yesterday I underwent a radical thyroidechtomy and lymphadenectomy.

The experience and the chain reaction of events forever altered my life.

A cancer diagnosis affects a person in ways that cannot be fully imagined or appreciated unless and until you actually experience it. And importantly, it affects everyone around you.

It is at times like these that Dr Viktor Frankl’s adage that between stimulus and response lies a space and in that space lies your power.

In other words, how you choose to respond to something will determine whether you come from a place of power or weakness.

I chose to realign myself. I read widely from inspirational teachers who had themselves undergone transformative experiences.

I came to understand that it is our birthright to have in our heart space love and peace. Their opposites are fear and conflict.

When I feel fear or conflict, I concentrate on my heart center and realigning love and peace.

As a result, I chose to put myself into the service of others.

My modality is hypnotherapy. The power of the subconscious mind cannot be overestimated.

Modern society and the noise from conventional media, social media, electronics and other technology creates an overload of stimulus and literally creates a state of hypnosis for large segments of society.

People are walking around in highly suggestible trance states and don’t even know it.

But the thought of going to a hypnotherapist seems crazy even though the modality is natural, organic, non invasive and does not include medication.

Even in the face of scholarly articles and medical studies demonstrating the efficacy of hypnotherapy for such conditions as cancer, anesthesia, IBS, tinnitus, fears and phobias and countless other maladies many remain cynical.

The range of applications for hypnotherapy is as wide and diverse as human action itself. You need only believe and be willing to apply.

I have successfully deployed hypnotherapy in my life and in the lives of many clients.

Who do you know who could benefit from hypnotherapy? Raise the topic with them.

And then send them my way for a free 30 minute consultation to see if hypnotherapy can help them.

It could alter their life in measurable ways.

IS SANTA CLAUS DEAD?

IS SANTA CLAUS DEAD?

by Arthur Rosengarten

Guest Blog by Dr. Arthur Rosengarten, a Jungian psychologist in San Diego, and author of Tarot of the Future: Raising Spiritual Consciousness.

            Over the winter solstice holidays many are moved to press squeegeeand sponge to the frosted windowsills of myth and magic.  These are shorter days when human energies by nature clutch less assuredly to the speedy wheels of modern living and hover instead before certain otherworldly anticipations, though often, not consciously.  December’s evening air grows crisper in the grasp of the elfin toe-nipper Jack Frost, and Father Time, for his part, slows the seasonal fog of our minds with sickle and hourglass, and even the dazzling, though treacherous, Snow Queen of the Danes, said to be as beautiful as ice crystals, now descends secretly in blizzards sent down from the arctic to seduce all weary travelers like a siren of winter.

 Yet in whose heart of hearts do the heavy imprints of Santa not still linger? That is, once stripped of the tiresome realism and cynicism that seems to accompany this undiagnosed malady called adulthood; surely the spirit of fondest early remembrance still clings in fidelity to the softest quilt of the soul?  Why not make peace with it?  Longer nights and shorter days reluctantly aid the undressing of this misplaced ‘grownup complex’–how else to explain the miserable epidemic called “Holiday Blues”? 

Sadly, that ‘One Glorious Day’ now comes and goes for so many of the post-kindergarten crowd with ne’er a tear dropped to mark old Santa’s tragic failure to return. Forever, adults must suffer a collective loss of bliss and wonder which for them resides in the frozen angst of waiting. The primary shame that accompanies this aborted miracle numbs even the noses of Prancer and poor Rudolph. Not even Jewish kids or the sons and daughters of non-believers escaped untrodden. Though no one dares speak of it, the abandonment we feel is of mythic proportions. In fact, it marks the very death of myth itself! However acute, by comparison Old Yeller was just a dog.

  The epiphany of pre-egos left behind by The Golden One of the Fragrant Spruce never really grinds back into dust. (Does not the “first whiff” of sweet pine still resonate like stardust through our primal senses?).  Tragically, The Grand Father for whom a full year we are good remains unaccounted for. But where has he gone? Does he no longer care?  Are we no more deserving than this black lump of coal? One simply shivers in the face of it, unless, far worse, one has fallen victim to the bluest of all modernist revelations: Santa Claus Is Dead. There, I said it.

Is this tragic development not worthy of even an occasional soul searching?  I mean, we are talking about Santa Claus, Santa Claus! I say let’s admit the ugly truth and move on, America: Santa Claus is Dead and in his beloved place We Have Been Malled!  That’s right, malled, and we must come to terms with it.

Aerial photographs confirm this fact beyond a shadow of a doubt. Bing Crosby now croons through the pipes in seven minute intervals on six continents and in forty-seven languages.  Thirsty shoppers expand mall lot floors in floating mazes like self-spawning manic desert ants in running shoes. ‘Gifting economics’ has replaced the Mystery of Chimneys.  Evergreen tree farms are big business, reindeer have been Bullwinkled, and the truth is, Big Red is dead.  He has been replaced in the night by an opiate, consumerism.

The fallout has been incalculable. Long ago, when the Flat Earth theory debunked, sure there was unhappiness– but it pales in comparison to The Big Dead Red. When newly discovered continents were named for the wino, Amerigo Vespucci,and red-skinned peoples bearing tomahawk and teepee were thought fluent in Sanskrit, well, such initial “misattributions” were dealt with, corrected, and eventually assimilated.  The point is we moved on. We woke up and smelled the flowers. Would that our current ignorance was so easily redressed. But surrogate shopping malls posturing as the Spirit of Xmas?  The thought is repugnant, and until recently, unthinkable.

More curious today perhaps is the extraordinary resiliency of what has been charitably called “false memory syndrome.”  How we clutch desperately, say the doctors, to the memory of what never really happened in our kitten years, but rather to what we profoundly wished had happened, or feared could happen. “Now emanating from the planet’s northern pole,” we were told from our first cognitive moment–(and yes, big people worthy of our trust concurred and encouraged)— “Santa Claus is coming tonight!” He would descend from the heavens upon flying arctic reindeer to land with perfect prescient accuracy into our very own living rooms via the chimney bearing wondrous gifts and toys!  This was, above all else, pure religious experience.  It defined the religious experience, at least for this author. What more could one ask for? Think about it. (And who better than a red-suited, pink-cheeked, bellowing, soup and cookie snacking, white-haired, fat guy with a beard and a good sense of humor to deliver this most marvelous and fantastic miracle of all?)  Yes, we believed.

We believed, even as the years rolled on, when we suspected things were perhaps not quite as they seemed. We believed in a special portal of our souls we reserved for enchantment and transcendent magic, even as Santa’s choice in toys did not correspond to our own.  Our faith was the innocence and wonderment of divine magic, and so the myth survived, and survives even today—that is, were we mature enough in mind and in spirit to contact that living portal of higher wonder now buried so deeply beneath the shopping centers of our hearts and minds.

Because we remain injured children pretending to be adults who no longer believe, we are mythically conflicted around primary magic.  This is the paradox, indeed the karma, of Christmas. Because in truth we still have access to this forgotten inner sanctum, yet fear the potential costs of re-entry (insult to injury)—sadly, every year we continue to flex our massive defense mechanisms and pull tighter on the red-striped ties around our necks to shed not a tear. Santa is not…

But the mythic realm is real as antlers and mistletoe, poor ones who have lived in shame for so long. Though we were indeed abandoned by the true Saint of The Snow, He lives within us now (if we only had the courage to unshovel him).  But remember this: we were never betrayed by Santa Claus, but by ourselves, that is, when we stopped believing in the real world of myth. Thus we now compensate in our mad dash to the desecrated graveyards of Christmas to empty our wallets in penance for disbelieving. Oh Dear Santa, shall you ever rise again?  Say, what’s that music I hear in crooning the pipes?