Friday, January 23, 2015

Shining the Light on Overdiagnosis and Overtreatment

A couple of years ago I took a photography class.  There were only four of us and the teacher so there was a lot of personal attention. I was the least experienced of all the students and also had the least expensive equipment. I felt a little out of my league when I pulled up at the beach at 4:30 am and saw that the others were unloading gigantic cameras and lenses and tripods that made mine look like I purchased it at target, which now that I think of it, maybe I did.

What drew me to this class was the subject matter we were photographing. I love the beach and the idea of capturing the light as the sun came over the horizon was just captivating to me. And it didn’t disappoint. Despite my lack of experience and unprofessional equipment, my photography class turned out to be one of the coolest things I have done. Ever.

You’ve heard the expression; you’ve got to fake it to make it, right? Well, being an actress may have helped with that. I pretended to myself that I knew what I was doing and doggone if I didn’t get some of the best photos that beautiful morning.

The teacher was very patient with me and super encouraging.  She talked me through f-stops and iso settings and challenged me to take my DSLR off of the auto setting for just this time. Now there is nothing wrong with those automatic settings. We can get great photos in automatic mode and I am right back there now, but for that morning, I was open to receive the guidance from the master as the teacher helped me gain confidence and learn some new things.

But the experience was so much more than just learning a few new skills. What I learned that morning was far more eye opening. I didn’t get it right away though. As we started photographing the beach, the sky, and the waves that morning I developed a new respect for light and the changes in perception it has to offer. As the sun began to rise, the light changed with every shot I took and I could tell I was getting some really great shots. It wasn’t until we got back to the teacher’s beach house that I was able to see the magic we were able to capture that morning.

As the sun rose over the horizon, the subtle shifts in the light created colors like I have never seen. Vivid blues and oranges and purples lined up above the water that morning and gave us a splendid show to preserve with our cameras. As the light grew brighter and higher and higher, we were able to see differently and with more clarity. It was a beautiful metaphor.

As we start 2105 I am inspired to shine some light on some things that maybe could use a new perspective. Today’s podcast is the first of our Shining the Light series. Yeah, I like that title. Shining the Light. That’s what we’re gonna do.

Today I am with Donna Pinto who in 2010 at the age of 44 was diagnosed with DCIS Ductal Carcinoma In Situ, which is considered a non-invasive, stage zero breast cancer or pre-cancer. Donna has become an avid researcher and has found on her own healthier alternatives to the extremely drastic and aggressive “standard of care” that our western medical approach currently suggests. She is a certified Nutritionist, advocate and coach for preventative health and healing through non-toxic, holistic means and healthy lifestyle practices.

For more information and to listen to the podcast go to:

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy Healthy New You!

    As I have talked about quite a lot on the Happy Healthy You! podcast these past few weeks, my new book Back to Happy, A Journey of Hope, Healing and Waking Up was finally published right before the holidays.  I had been working on this book for a while.

    Truth be told, I had been thinking about this book for quite a while – a long while before I finally got it together and sat down to begin the writing process.  I give credit to so many of the authors and experts I have interviewed on the Happy Healthy You podcast for the inspiration to finally get the words down on paper and submit them for publishing.

    The process of writing down my own story was daunting. I suppose that was part of the procrastination issue. The book is my story of healing after the death of my first daughter Meghan and the lessons that I learned from that journey. In writing about it, I came to realize just how much there was to say about my experience and it was a lot! It was also quite self-revelatory. So many of the insights that I had while writing the book only came to me once I sat with myself and started writing.

     And then, there was the issue of personal exposure and opening myself to the good opinion of others that was a bit scary. Personal exposure about my inner journey, my sacred spiritual journey that was mine and mine alone. Personal exposure of my writing skills – that’s a frightening one. Oh dear.

     While I do believe that certain things in our lives are sacred and shouldn’t necessarily be shared with others, this journey of mine was one that was common to us all and my inner guidance, God, the universe, my guides, all would not leave me alone about it.  I needed to tell this story and perhaps give hope to someone else who might be going through a similar experience.

     Have you had this feeling, this longing to create? It is a pressure that just intensifies the longer it is ignored until finally I had to just succumb and begin writing. When I did start – the writing – the pressure started to slowly back off with each chapter.  Childbirth is like this. Nature wants us to push when it’s time and there’s not much anyone can do to stop it. That baby is ready to be born at a certain time and the mother is best served by relaxing into it and allowing that precious new creation to flow right through her. Such a miracle, this birthing thing!

     Now that I am familiar with this feeling and the relief that comes from just surrendering to the process, I trust that future creations will be birthed that much more gracefully and with less resistance on my part. I can be so annoying to myself sometimes!

    Yep, this book had to be written and, funny thing, once I began there really was nothing that could stop me. For several months I was a taskmaster to myself, giving myself deadlines for chapters to be completed by certain dates. I was tough. I didn’t put up with slacking off. Not sure exactly why, but I told myself that I wanted to finish the book and have it ready to go in time for the holidays and that I did, getting it done just before all the festivities began.

    In retrospect, I must say that the process of creation for me – for all of us is really very sacred and very, very miraculous.  We all have creation potential within us. We all have something to share with the world be it small or large things. We all have a purpose. Sometimes our purpose has to do with our woundedness and we must pay attention to that which stands out like a proverbial sore thumb.  Sometimes our purpose is a gift that wants to be shared to teach, to heal, to inspire others, or bring joy and peace to the world, again in small or large ways.

     It can be scary to think about exposing our vulnerabilities and shadows and fears and needs but wow, can it be healing! And what we come to find as we are exploring our inner world with honesty and truth is that the human experience is common and we are not alone; not by any means. We all go through tough times and joyful times and both can be overwhelming in their intensity.

     So how to begin? I believe that we begin with the word. In the beginning was the word, after all. Start by journaling every day, or at least as often as you can make the time. Old fashioned though it may sound, get a pen and paper and write, just write. Successful people throughout history have kept journals, from presidents to kings. Oscar Wild the 19th century playwright once said “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.”

    There is increasing evidence that journaling has certain health benefits.  According to University of Texas psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker, regular journaling strengthens immune cells called T-lymphocytes.  Other research contends that regular journaling reduces symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Journaling can help us to come to terms with the stressors of life before they become health issues.

    The act of journaling, of writing down what is going on inside, accesses the left-brain which is the analytical and rational side.  While that left side is occupied, the right brain – our creative side is free to do its thing, which is to intuit and feel our way through the quagmire of our inner world.  Here are some more benefits of journaling that you might experience:

   A clarifying of your thoughts and feelings
   You will know yourself better
   Stress will be reduced
   Problems will be solved
   We will better understand disagreements with others
   We can track patterns, habits and growth

    Change requires some amount of awareness and journaling can help foster radical self-awareness. It is by far the best discipline I can think of for coming to know ourselves better.

    Try journaling for about 20 minutes a day. Julia Cameron, author of  the awesome book The Artist’s Way suggests we write three pages long hand each day. Don’t get too attached to the amount or writing you do – just do it. Let go of worries about spelling and punctuation and anything else that might block that flow. Be free about your writing, but if you feel inclined create a theme for your day, week or month. Try to keep rules at bay as much as possible. Make the journal your best friend that you can tell anything to. Keep your journal private and close to your heart. These words are yours and yours alone.

    If you would like, you can try the journal that I created as a companion to my book Back to Happy. It’s called Gratitude, Grace and God Things and it’s available now at In it, I teach a simple reflection method based on the theological reflection model that is powerful and has been my go-to method for getting deeper messages from my soul. I give this method a lot of credit for helping me get Back to Happy written! Or, if you want to make time for the discipline of journaling in a more comprehensive way, try the third book in the Back to Happy series, a journal called Happy Healthy New You! which is a journal to record progress in all areas of mind, body and spirit. It is also available at

     My prayer for you is that your journal becomes a sacred practice for you that you will find solace, self-realization and joy in the discipline of journaling that you are establishing for yourself.

     Happy, healthy New Year my friends and happy, healthy journaling!