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The 3 Best Reasons to Work With a Coach

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As a parent, you have many responsibilities and are expected to demonstrate an almost super-human capacity for doing everything, being everywhere and helping everyone all at the same time (remember that time you had to be at the hockey rink, cook dinner, write a report for work and have coffee with a friend, all in one night and you somehow managed to get it done?).

As a parent with a sick child, you are expected to do all of the above AND manage to navigate your child’s illness with the intelligence and expertise of a person who spent 10 years in medical school (something you didn’t have time for and had no interest in).

It can be overwhelming some days!  I know this because I am one of those parents.  I have walked the tight rope of juggling a career, a sick child, a healthy child, relationships, friendships, sports, finances and the list goes on.  It’s hard!  It’s really hard!!  And what kept me sane?  My Life Coach, who I might add, was not originally hired to help me organize my life as a parent of a sick child. I originally hired him  to help me achieve some goals I had related to my professional life; and thank goodness he was there because his help was immeasurable.

Now, embarking on a career as a life coach myself, specializing in coaching parents just like me (you know, the ones with a medically fragile child in their life), I am closing excel, putting down my pencil and calculator (my first profession is as a Chartered Accountant) and rolling my sleeves up with passion and enthusiasm.  Helping families like mine is my goal.  Here are 3 compelling reasons you should consider taking me up on my offer for a free 45-minute coaching session soon!

Reason #1 – Get Help Processing Problems and Challenges

Coaching helps you get to the root of the problem quickly and then access the solutions you need to implement for results.  While it’s always great to sit around with friends or family members and lament about what’s not working in your life, or complain about the doctor you feel isn’t really listening to your concerns, it’s much more productive to work through the issue and then create a solution.  As your coach I will help you get unstuck   and move from frustration to implementation to problem solved!!!

Reason #2 – Finding Fulfillment and Feeling Supported

As parents, we often find ourselves (sick kid or not) lacking in that feeling of fulfillment and in some cases we feel downright unsupported.   Coaching can help you access a life of joy, feeling alive, realizing your dreams and goals despite the fact that you may have a child that is presenting with challenging health!  As your coach, I can help guide you to ensuring you know how to access feelings of fulfillment, learn how to feel supported and most importantly, have fun in the process.

Reason #3 - Finding Clarity about What you Really Want in Life

It’s easy for parents who have the experience of caring for a sick child to put aside their needs and wants as priorities in life.  If you are like me, the thought of pursuing your own dreams and desires in the face of dealing with your sick child, makes you feel like a “bad person”…I mean come on, you have a sick child to take care of, how on earth would it be right or ok to go after what you really want in life aside from wanting your child to be well.  Well, I can tell you that not only CAN you do that, but you MUST do that.  Your child deserves to have a parent/family caring for them that is motivated beyond simply living their life around the illness or caring for the child.  It’s important that you remain clear about your own personal goals in life as you are the example for your child; how can you possible teach them to lead a full and amazing life if you’re having a hard time doing that yourself?

There are many more reasons why coaching can be a great solution for parents and/or families (did I mention that I also do family coaching as well).  If you found this short little article interesting or helpful, please complete my “Contact” form and I will be in touch within 24 hours to schedule you FREE 45-minute coaching session.

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My Child’s Illness is Ruining My Marriage

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This is a rather “odd” post for me. You see, at the time Emily was diagnosed with Epilepsy, her father and I were only recently divorced (about a month). That said, I know that an illness in a family, regardless of which family member it is, is difficult on a marriage; or any relationship for that matter.

I have listened to and spoken with many wives, husbands, partners, siblings, aunts, uncles…you name it…about the difficulty they endured when coping with family illness. Ironically, despite the relationship, there was one resounding similarity…the illness being suffered by the patient was taking its toll on the people all around who were trying to help.

While I don’t have all the answers, I have been able to compile what I consider the four most important tips I share with couples who feel that their child’s illness is ruining their marriage.

Tip #1 – Take a Time Out
As parents, our lives are often stretched thin trying to fit in the everyday demands of holding down a job, taxiing children to an overloaded schedule of activities, staying current with friends and family, etc… Now, throw in a sick child and all the new responsibilities of doctors appointments, medicine, new diets and routines and you literally may feel like you’re about to lose your mind!

As a couple, sit down and spell out your need for a regular “time out”. Whether that means that dad gets to spend 2 hours every Saturday tinkering in the garage without interruption, or mom gets to go to her book club meeting every second Tuesday, make sure you write it down, schedule it in, communicate it to the kids (so they can be part of helping it happen) and support each other in making it happen!!!

Tip #2 – Divide and Conquer
When you go to work each day, hopefully you have a job description and you know specifically what is expected of you. This type of organization and allocation of tasks is what helps organizations earns profit and keep their doors open, achieving what it is they are in business to do.

Same goes for organizing your family. While I suggest this a a good habit of practice for any family, I think this applies even more to families who are under the pressure of helping a child who is chronically ill. Sit down and make a list of all the things that need to be done in a day, a week and a month in your family. Beside each item allocate it to a member of the family. Be mindful of work schedules, chore preference and unique abilities. Make sure to get agreement about who should be doing what.

Next, put that list somewhere that supports you and your partner at being mindful of what is required and when. If you notice that something didn’t get done…well, that leads me to point #3

Tip #3 – Show Compassion and Appreciation
You know how this works…it’s often those who are closest to us that bear the brunt of our bad day, bad mood and feelings of despair, depression and sadness.

Make a point of showing your partner some love and compassion every day. Schedule it in!!!! going back to the example of work…you wouldn’t consider canceling a daily meeting with your boss to review delinquent accounts; after all, if you don’t collect those funds how would you expect to get paid next Friday. So, make a meeting (daily if possible), to spend 5 minutes letting your spouse know what you are grateful for. This is like making daily deposits to your wellness account so that when you really have a rainy day, you can reach in and make a withdrawal. Couples who don’t take the time to show compassion and gratitude on a regular (daily) basis, run the risk of developing anger and resentment and start the process of building walls of non-communication between them. Not only is this counter-productive in your marriage, it will spell disaster if you hit a rough spot on the road to recovery with your child. A healthily marriage is essential to your child’s emotional wellness at a time they have physically un-wellness.

Tip #4 – Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
There are so many ways you can ask for help. From hiring a maid service to come and do those pesky household chores you can’t seem to get around to, to getting your next door neighbor to pop over for 30 minutes in the evening while you and your partner go for a stroll around the block, being strong enough to ask for help is a saving grace.

I know, that before Emily was sick I was often unable to accept or ask for help. Now, I jump at the chance to let others be part of the solution. I know I can’t do this alone. And I also know that Emily benefits from seeing us ask and get help and let others be part of the solution.

Like I said at the start, illness can be a total drag on your relationships. But it can also act as a catalyst to building a stronger relationship with ties that bind you and your family stronger; that was the case with us. Emily’s illness brought us closer and offered us a chance to reconcile our family, a chance we are gambling on and exploiting!!!

You and you alone have the choice to let your child’s illness ruin your marriage or make it even better than it ever was before…there really is a silver lining of you want there to be!!!

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The Other Child in the Room

If your family is at all like ours, you were completely unprepared to discover that your child has a chronic illness. It’s certainly not something most families plan for. There are a lot of things we do plan for, but I’m certain this is not one of them.

While most of my material up to his point has focused on Emily, epilepsy or the ketogenic diet, I haven’t spoken much about our “other child in the room”. This is a phrase I have heard a lot and I felt it was time to share some of the ideas our family implemented to help our other child in the room.

Children are Resilient
If we’ve learned but one thing in our journey, it’s that both our children are strong and resilient. Riley, who is two and a half years older than Emily has shown a strong sense of love, admiration, patience and understanding towards Emily and her needs. I feel this is because, right from the start we treated Emily’s epilepsy as a family affair.. Riley joined us at doctor appointments and hospital visits where the medical staff took the time to make sure things were explained to him using age appropriate language.

We didn’t feel that keeping Riley in the dark about what was happening with Emily was the right approach despite some people thinking it might be too much for him and that he should be left to be a kid. Like us, Riley had some serious concerns and worries of his own; things his dad and I could never fathom since we are no longer looking at the world through the eyes of a then 8 year old. Having Riley join us helped in a number of ways:
• he realized quickly that he wasn’t going to “catch” epilepsy from Emily
• he also realized that getting to miss school to sit at the hospital for the day is really not all that fun
• he learned appropriate language he could use when speaking with other children about Emily’s epilepsy
• he saw with his own eyes how brave his little sister is since she can get poked with a needle and not even cry, a fact he remains very proud of
• most importantly, he got to see first hand that Emily was being well taken care of and would be “ok”!!

We often get so caught up worrying about the “sick” kid that we forget that our other children are affected by a family illness also. It’s important that we take the time to remind our other children how much they are loved and plan for some special one-on-one time that makes them feel special. While they don’t want to be the one who is sick, it’s natural for them to feel a little left out or unimportant; after all, all this fuss and attention is being made of their sibling and it can feel like they are being ignored.

It’s also important that they get the chance to talk about how they are feeling. Our neurologist recommended that Emily see a psychologist. We decided to bring Riley along as well. This turned out to be a great opportunity for him to speak about some concerns he was having and find his voice to tell me “mom, when we go back to school, can you tell Emily’s friends to get a teacher at recess if she has a seizure, I just wanna go outside at recess and have some fun.” What Riley had failed to tell us, was that for the last few months of Emily’s grade one year, her friends would constantly seek him out to “help” Emily if they saw her have a seizure on the playground. Being the loving and responsible brother he was, he was always at her side to be sure she was ok, but it was really stressing him out!

It’s important that while you’re busy paying close attention to the daily behaviors and changes you are asked to track for your sick child, that you also be aware of small changes that might be going on for the other child(ren). Speak to your child’s teachers and care takers and ask them to be alert for any small and subtle changes in behavior, appetite or social interactions. Often, there are many small signs that go unnoticed before something big is staring you in the eye and you’ve lost a chance to intervene at an early stage. Working as a team and knowing from the start that the illness of one child will affect the entire family unit are keys to success.

While there are many ways to involve the other child in the room, some simple tips would include:
• talk as a family about what’s happening for your “sick” child
• make some time for the “other” child to feel special and the center of attention from time to time
• don’t allow the “sick” child to blame bad behavior on their sickness
• make sure that teachers, sports coaches, extended family, child care providers and anyone who spends time with your children know what’s going on and are directed to speak with you about any subtle changes they may witness
• talk to your medical team about the right language to use or possibly the opportunity for a meeting with the whole family to explain some specifics about your child’s illness in age appropriate language.

If you thought this was a valuable article and would like to have my monthly newsletter sent directly to your inbox, please be sure to sign up! Monthly newsletter will begin June 2013.

Some upcoming topics will include
• My Child’s Illness is Ruining My Marriage
• How Do I Discipline a Sick Monster??

If you’re a parent or a family with some great ideas or advice for the “other child in the room” please leave me a comment!

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A Few Sobering Facts

Cure Epilepsy

I took some time today to read the “State of Research in The Epilepsies 2013″ report published on the C.U.R.E Epilepsy website www.CUREepilepsy.org  In the letter from the Chair, Susan Axelrod, I read three important facts , which were further discussed in the report, that I think often get overlooked or blindly accepted by parents who are living with a child with Epilepsy.

Firstly, Ms. Axelrod points out that there continues to be inadequate per patient funding.  I discovered, while reading this report, that there are 65 million people world-wide suffering with Epilepsy.  And in the United States one in 26 people will develop epilepsy in their lifetime.  To me, those are staggering numbers, and numbers which I had no perception about until my family became part of the statistic.  Funding for epilepsy research has grown only 5% since 2008, compared with funding for Autism and Alzheimer`s which have grown by 44% and 28% respectively.  It is clear that Epilepsy continues to remain a rather mysterious and silent disease for mainstream media; unless we can begin to advocate more for our children and adults who suffer with this disease, little will be done to increase the funding so badly needed.

Secondly, Ms, Axelrod points out that research is primarily focused on symptom control rather than cures.  I personally feel that this observation plays a direct impact on the point above.  Since, for the most part, there are drug therapies that help control seizure activity, there is less anxiety and demand for research to find a cure; it`s almost like there is an attitude that because there are adequate drug therapies to control seizures, there is no need for finding a cure.  As parents who were new to this disease, we often felt that the doctors were more concerned with simply masking the seizures with medication than finding the cause or the cure.

While I understand that finding the cause and/or cure are pretty lofty, expensive and time-consuming activities, it would have been nice if we didn’t have to scour the internet to learn that these things were happening behind the scenes.  I am here to tell you, as a parent who might be looking for answers, that yes, in fact there is lots being done behind the scenes, but help and funding is needed so that more can be done.

The last, and perhaps scariest point Ms. Axelrod made is that “Children with uncontrollable seizures frequently face a lifetime of intellectual and developmental disability”.  This point, brought to attention in the opening letter of this important report, is the scary reality that many parents live with day-in-and-day-out when they have a child with Epilepsy.  As a parent, you are well aware that delays in intellect and development also lead to delays in becoming fully adept at being able to exist at appropriate social levels for their age.  

I want to urge every single parent who has a school-aged child with epilepsy, whether controlled or not, to do what you can do to obtain a Neuropsychological Assessment for your child.  The doctor performing the assessment may also recommend a Psycho-Ed.  Many times, if you have private health-coverage these tests can be partially or fully covered.  There are far-reaching implications on your child’s development and learning each time their little growing brain experiences seizure activity.  For our daughter, we discovered that she had very poor working-memory which is why she was having such a hard time learning basic sight-words and was unable to read at grade-level.

We also discovered that she had inadequate impulse control which was impacting her ability to properly relate and socialize with kids her age.  Without this information helping guide us, we would have never been able to fully help treat her non-seizure symptoms of Epilepsy.  As a result of these findings (as well as many others that were uncovered in the report prepared for us), we have been able to ensure she gets adequate in-class support, an Orten-Gillingham Tutor to help with her reading and comprehension and added emphasis and discussions when it comes to difficulties she encounters with her friends at school. While we don’t  allow her to use her epilepsy as a reason for bad behavior or poor academic results, we now understand that she requires support in different ways than her older brother who doesn’t have epilepsy.

I discovered, while reading this report, that there are 65 million people world-wide suffering with Epilepsy.  And in the United States one in 26 people will develop epilepsy in their lifetime.  To me, those are staggering numbers, and numbers which I had no perception about until my family became part of the statistic.  I hope that maybe, just maybe, if you are reading this post, you will take a look at the detailed report yourself and find a way to help support the millions of people that suffer, often in silence, with this disease.Cure Epilepsy

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Please note: all information in this blog post was taken from the www.CUREepilepsy.org web-site.  Opinions expressed are mine and were not discussed with CUREepilepsy

 

A Holistic Appraoch

I am so excited for this weekend. As I write this I am sitting in my seat at the I Can Do It 2013 speakers series being held at the Queen Elizabeth Theater in Vancouver.

The week after Emily embarked on the Ketogenic Diet, I had a day to myself and spent it on the beach watching my friends play volleyball followed by an enjoyable evening of good food and wine. To be honest, I felt guilty about leaving Mike at home to “do the food” and was worried I shouldn’t be enjoying myself.

Upon speaking with one of my friends there she asked lots and lots of questions about Emily’s epilepsy and the new diet we had embarked on. I am happy to have have spoken with her that evening since she took the chance to recommend a book she thought might be very useful for me and Emily during this journey. The author is an amazing lady by the name of Louise Hay and the book she recommended was You Can Heal Your Life. Reading that book made a profound impact on the journey of navigating our new life with a child with a chronic illness. I became almost obsessed with learning about Louise and was thrilled when I found out her speakers series was coming to Vancouver.

One of the profound implications I realized upon reading her book, almost immediately, was that Emily’s epilepsy has created a condition for our family to heal our life. This journey wasn’t just about getting her medication or a diet that would stop her seizures. It wasn’t just about going to doctor appointments and getting tests. What I found was true for our family, was that it was about looking at every aspect of our life and being able to be honest about what was working and what wasn’t working; it was about breaking our lives open and being willing to find the cracks in the foundation and figuring out how to mend them; or better yet, to build a new foundation that wouldn’t have cracks.

There are many things I have uncovered in what has been a short journey so far. I know there are many more things that are still waiting to be uncovered. I’m going to share with you one of the many, yet probably the most important discovery I have yet made.

Slow down!!! For most of my life, and for all of Emily’s short little life, I have been busy rushing; rushing to the next big thing that I placed undue importance on. Rushing to grow up, to move out, to finish university, to climb the corporate ladder, to make more money to provide all the things rushed families provide their kids in lieu of the one thing they really need: love…spelt by a child as T I M E.

Now I’m not saying (100%) that Emily’s epilepsy was caused because we had a rushed life and not enough time. What I am saying though, is that her epilepsy became the “voice” I heard asking me, pleading with me and then pretty much YELLING at me to slow down, enjoy time and give my child the most precious gift of love there is to give; my time.

In closing, I want to share with you something that Dr Wayne Dyer said today…”true nobility is not in being better than everyone else, or having more than everyone else, it’s in being better than you were yesterday”. I can truly say, that I am fortunate and lucky that I am better today than I was yesterday.

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The Right Eating Tools Really Help!!

As we are growing up and learning the socially acceptable way of eating, we learn to use a fork, a knife and a spoon.  We learn that we don’t lick our plate and its beyond rude to finish every last drop of food.  Well, if you have a child that likes to bend the rules or be a little different, then you can certainly get them excited about the Ketogenic Diet and what will be their new found freedom to lick plates, use fun utensils and not leave a speck of food!

Here are a few “tools” we have found very helpful for Emily in being able to eat all her foods:

The Spoonula! As it is so nicely referred to our home

 

We like that they come in lots of different colours.  Locally in our area we found them in the kitchen section of Winners Department store.

Here is a link to buy them on-line http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/9333485/?catalogId=44&bnrid=3117700&cm_ven=AfCompShop&cm_cat=TheFind&cm_pla=GAN&cm_ite=Std#viewLargerHeroOverlay

We have also found that the newly re-designed plastic plates from Ikea are excellent!  They have a lip on them that prevents food from accidentally sliding off the plate

Ikea PlatesThese can be found on-line at www.ikea.com or in store 

Is the Ketogenic Diet Right for My Child?

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As some parents have learned, there are alternative therapies for treating Epilepsy.  Many people have great success with the various drug therapies available, with little to no side-effects.  There are some children however, for reasons often unknown, find that the various drugs available to them do little to nothing to help control their seizures.

This was the situation we found ourselves in.  Over a period of 10 months, Emily was tried on four different medications, in varying doses and combinations.  It seemed, for Emily, that the seizures were getting worse, not better.  Finally in May of 2012 our family decided that it was time to fight for what we truly believed would be the key to helping Emily; food!  But not just any food.  What we had in mind was something called the Ketogenic Diet.

In simple terms, the Ketogenic Diet is a high fat (usually about 90%) diet that is prescribed, much like medication by a doctor.  There is a specific medical process that needs to be undertaken in order to ensure that the patients health remains stable while on the diet.  The diet SHOULD NOT be attempted without the assistance of a trained dietitian and a doctor.  Here are some straightforward considerations that you should think about as you contemplate this therapy to help your child:

  • The diet is restrictive in terms of the food that is eaten, the times of day the child must eat and the way in which the food is prepared.
  • Your child will need to be “trusted” not to eat food that is not allowed, otherwise the diet will not be effective and they may become ill.
  • You will need to be organized so that meals are prepared ahead of time and consistent with how you will be properly trained.
  • All members of your family, extended family and those in close contact with your child on a regular basis will need to be “educated” about the diet and they will need to understand the need to “stick to the plan”
  • There is no such thing as a “cheat” day or meal when the Ketogenic diet is being used to help control your child’s epilepsy; just as you wouldn’t play around with the doses and timing of medication, you must be willing to treat the food like medicine.
  • It WILL BE HARD but it WILL BE WORTH IT!

As a family, we originally felt that maybe we could all eat the “Keto way” so that it was easier on Emily.  We soon discovered, that despite what a grand gesture of support that was for her, it was just not feasible.  The first few weeks we got acquainted with the diet, we spent upwards of 2 hours a day preparing her meals and cleaning up.  During her second week on the diet, we decided to go to the movies to get her mind off things.  We settled in to our seats only to discover that we had forgotten her snack.  Oh yikes!!!  Off I went, back home to get her snack so we could stick to the plan.

The Ketogenic Diet is not easy, but it is worth it if it helps your child remain seizure free or greatly reduces the number of seizures they have.  Having a great support system in place and having a guide who can share ideas and know what your challenges will be might just be the difference between success and failure.

If you are thinking of incorporating the Ketogenic Diet into your child’s treatment program, but feel you need that little bit of extra support, please contact me today for a free 30-minute coaching consultation:

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In The Begining

No parent or family can ever be prepared for the news that their child has been diagnosed with a chronic illness.  We can read all the parenting books we like, we can go to as many mommy groups as we can squeeze into the precious time we have, we can investigate everything that will impact our children from the pre-school we chose, to the food they eat, but we can never prepare for a doctor telling us that our child is “broken”.

I remember back to September 2011 when we first became aware that Emily, or precious, sweet little 6-year-old daughter had this “thing” called Epilepsy.  We arrived early at the BC Children’s Hospital, to meet with the doctor.  We had done our research and thought we had the answers.  The first thing the doctor asked was “what do you know about Emily’s seizures”…to which I so naively answered “well I know it’s not epilepsy.”  There was a silence in the room…the doctor looked up at me and said “actually that is not correct, Emily’s seizures are epileptic”.

I don’t remember much of what she said after that.  I was in shock.  How is it possible, that me, a university educated, smart person, who had combed Google searching for answers, actually came to the conclusion that Emily’s seizures were not Epilepsy?  It didn’t make sense.  I can remember the conversation moving from “what causes this?”…”we have no idea, it is idiopathic in nature” to “this is strange that your pediatrician would prescribe her this drug therapy only once a day, we ordinarily prescribe this three times per day”.  Well, that certainly was reassuring to know, since when we filled the prescription, the first thing the Pharmacist said was “Huh, that’s strange, I wonder why your doctor is prescribing THIS drug”.  It also explained why our daughter had suddenly become a walking zombie!!

And so began our journey in navigating the mystery of our daughters new diagnosis.  It wasn’t until the following summer, after many bumps in the road, which I will share with you along the way, that we actually discovered that our daughter had, what the government would classify as a “chronic illness”.   No one mentioned to us that along with these seizures that were captivating her small little body, that there were a host of side-effects such as learning delays, personality changes etc…

As I stumbled through this period of uncertainty, a period with more questions than answered, the one thing I yearned for was just one person who understood what it was I was going through, what I was feeling.  Someone who could and would guide me to uncovering the answers and energy I needed to get through those days that seemed so discouraging.

I was lucky to start working with a Life Coach shortly after our family’s journey began.  I didn’t start working with my coach with the intention of using his services to help me navigate this new aspect of my life, but ultimately, being the great coach that he is, I did use him and he helped me tonnes.  He helped me step back and get perspective.  He helped me implement systems that kept me organized and sane.  He helped me learn to create the environments that I needed in my life to manage this situation like an expert, as if I had done this before.

Our journey is far from over.  Emily still HAS epilepsy and we are reminded of the fact that she lives with a chronic illness each day when we ensure she takes her medication and spend countless hours preparing her food for the Ketogenic diet.  It hasn’t been easy, and just recently I had to fight through my tears and find the humor in her view-point when she said “mommy, daddy, out of all the tests I have had, I think the MRI is the best!  Do you know I got to watch a Barbie movie!!!”  This, coming from child who has had more blood work done than I can count, countless EEG’s and a spinal tap that landed her in the hospital for five days, missing the last days of grade 1.

Please be sure to visit the site often to take part as we tell our story and share our secrets to our success.  Check out my coaching page and decide if coaching might be a great solution for you and/or your family.