Oprah and Me: Self-possession

Oprah and Me: Self-possession

There’s been a lot of chatter about Oprah Winfrey this last week, especially amongst Washingtonians. Those of us with a connection to the San Juan Islands, where I summer/fall forge for much of food I use in recipes I create (published in www.drlisapricend.com), were not surprised to hear that she’d purchased a piece of property on one of the larger islands.

The islands are beautiful, mystical and full of life. There are species of birds and insects that can only be found on some of the remote smaller islands that are part of marine parks in the area; and resident whale families that have been studied by NOAA for decades. Island life is slow, and quiet. Because most people have gardens or raise animals, many pay-by-honor food stands dot the lofty roads, selling fresh bouquets of flowers, organic eggs and veggies, for carnivores organic meat can be gotten as well. On many of the smaller islands, roads are quiet, and the occasional driver always gives a slow wave to walkers or fellow motorists as they pass. Many residents choose to travel by walking or bicycling.

These islands became inhabited by people around 8,000 years ago. The Coast Salish, specifically the Lummi, are thought to be the first care takers of the land. They were attracted to the island because of the abundance of resources (especially food), and the sacredness of the land. For over 5,000 years they tended and honored the earth here. One can find indigenous recipes which incorporate berries, seaweed, clams, crabs, fish, mushrooms, and various types of herbs.

The islands and lifestyle encourage slow and thoughtful living. It is the rule, not the exception. The energy of this place necessitates that you breathe in, feel, regroup and ground yourself. And it certainly helps that the human collective, here, is doing the same things.

Not many people would guess what I was thinking in this picture. Oprah had just finished the first evening of “The Life You Want” tour. We’d been escorted to the front of the line, prior to anyone lining up. We’d waited for about 20 minutes. As the time passed, I observed the seemingly hundreds of people, she’d also be taking a picture with that evening. I became concerned at how much energy it must take from her, and how that could affect her health. I thought of my patients. By the time we were called into the photo booth to take pictures, I felt like apologizing and walking out. Instead, I said a little prayer for her, hoping that folks wouldn’t take or ask for too much of her energy.

I thought of my patients because often times during treatment, especially with women 1. Too much is asked or expected from them and/or 2. They continue to focus outside of themselves on their families or their spouses. Reasons may be that they look perfectly ‘normal’, and that is used as a gage as to activities and demands. Also, patients can be the pivot point in their families or the load barer.

The problem is that patients bodies during cancer treatment are doing incredible amounts of physiological healing and adjustments that can’t be determined by just looking at them. ‘Sitting around’ after a chemotherapy treatment takes on a whole different meaning. From the time a patient has chemotherapy to several days out the body is in deep repair mode (hence the fatigue). It is mobilizing energy and protein to rebuild tissue that has been damaged. An incredible amount of energy is being used and is absolutely needed for repair processes.

If patients are asked to take care of others, or expend energy taking care of others, that is energy that can’t be used to heal. When you have less energy to heal you develop increased side effects, and slower healing. And as you all know, the immune system needs to rebound as quickly as possible to help fight the cancer too. It can’t if there is not enough energy around.

My take home message is that set boundaries and limits. This is your time to heal. Nurturing self-possession is not a bad thing.

I hope you all will have an opportunity to experience the San Juan Islands. They are a magical and healing place.

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