Silence -- it's deafening. I look around at this empty apartment and take in the sinking feeling that I'm alone. New Yorkers seem to crave "alone time." I see individuals sitting on park benches all over the city, stealing moments, staring into space, encased in an invisible aura of solitude. It's quite a feat actually to do this amidst the noise and tidal wave of humanity that ebbs and flows through ...

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You may have noticed an uptick in messages from your health plan or clinician notifying you that "You are the captain of your health care team." I have seen them here and here and here and here, for example. My response to this message? Bad metaphor: I am not the captain of my health care team. I may -- on some days -- consider myself a member of that team, should I actually ...

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I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, People will forget what you did, But people will never forget how you made them feel. -Maya Angelou We are often asked, “How can you do that?”  How can you stand to do that work?  Such a dreary subject.  Grim but supposedly necessary.  Don’t you get depressed with all the talk of dying?  Facing death and its consequences every day must be the prime route ...

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When he was five, my son Daniel went through a rough patch with his asthma. Both he and his sister Allison had been diagnosed the year before, when we were living in Colorado. I never knew if it was the fault of the pollution that too often smeared our view of the mountains, or my then-husband's two-pack-daily cigarette habit. Or was it the unspoken shriek of anxiety? After I divorced my ...

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When I first started facilitating a grief support group shortly after moving to New York, my aim was simply to create a supportive environment for members to heal from their grief and to form long lasting bonds of friendship. In the course of five months however, I've begun to wonder whether emotional and psychological healing can be contained into an end goal with a finish line. For the most part, authors ...

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I’ve been chronically ill since I contracted a viral infection in 2001. Were I to recover, I’d take these six hard-earned lessons with me into the land of the healthy. 1. Less is more. I used to be an accumulator. My life was filled with stuff: books and magazines that sat unread; CDs; jewelry; knickknacks and trinkets; clothing and all its accompaniments (shoes, belts, scarves). Since becoming sick, I’ve learned that less ...

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Current efforts of clinicians, hospitals and researchers to make health care more "patient-centered" include inviting some of us to advise on research priorities, care organization and delivery under the assumption that, as patients, we understand what patient-centered outcomes and care are. These invitations and our acceptance of them often result in confusion and disappointment for everyone, regardless of good intentions. What do patients know about the inner workings of ...

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I moved to Florida three months ago to take a job as a primary care nurse practitioner in a clinic for the underserved and uninsured. This position followed four years spent as a home-visiting nurse practitioner working with high acuity, chronically ill patients in the Boston area.  I didn’t realize it would be such a transition to go back to taking care of patients in the clinic setting after spending ...

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January of 2010 initiated me into the life of a chronic pain patient. For sixteen months I plunged into a diagnosis journey that brought with it ten misdiagnoses by eleven respected physicians, fifteen procedures and tests, twenty-two medications and crushing pelvic pain. People have asked me if I am angry about it all; the misdiagnoses, prolonged pain, time spent, needless tests and sometimes painful procedures. Anger is not the presiding feeling, ...

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Once upon a time, I was a newspaper journalist: I chased down sources and sweated over deadlines. Then, in mid-career, I switched to doing marketing and communications for a regional healthcare system. This consisted of a large hospital and many outpatient clinics, including a community cancer center. Because I handled communications work for the cancer center, I also had a seat on the cancer committee -- an oversight group of oncologists, ...

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