Book Review & Giveaway: Live Well with Chronic Pain

The statistics are staggering. More than 100 million people in the United States live with chronic pain. In Canada, approximately 7 million people have chronic pain. That's a lot of hurting, which comes at a great cost, not only to the individual, but society as well.

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." - Leonardo Da Vinci

When you read Live Well with Chronic Pain by Dr. Liza Leal, you'll find evidence of this sophistication. Dr. Leal, a physician who knows what it is like to have chronic pain since being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 1995 has distilled the vast subject of chronic pain management into a quick-to-read, but highly potent story. Scroll down for instructions on how to enter the giveaway for your own copy of Live Well with Chronic Pain.

In the book, you are introduced to Tom, a man whose quality of life is impacted by severe migraines. In an effort to be proactive, he decides to attend a weekend retreat that is being run by a pain management group.

Over the course of the weekend, Tom meets four people - Mary, Diane, David and Annabelle - each of whom describes one of the 4 Foundations of living well with chronic pain. You learn about their history, struggles and successes, as they make the daily choice to live better.

At the end of each chapter, Tom summarizes what he learns about each of the 4 Foundations. This makes it easy for you to adopt and adapt them - to create your own plan for living well with chronic pain.

As a result of reading this book, I've added to my own toolbox. Six simple words that pack a powerful punch of motivation:

"Keep my eyes on the prize."

I use this when I'm about to make a poor dietary choice. The rhyming tone is like a light-hearted mantra; one that is easy to recall and implement.

As Mary says:

"To take responsibility for managing your own pain, you must realize that it is your responsibility. And to choose to live a better life, you have to wake up to the fact that you can take steps that will help lead you to that life. Once you embrace those truths, then the choice to live a fuller, richer life becomes almost mandatory. You can no longer really believe you are powerless. Nor do you want to believe it any more. Once you wake up, you never want to go back to your former way of thinking and to that tired, weak, helpless feeling." (Page 16)

Decide to take action, get informed and put into practice what you learn. As one of my clients has said on her blog:

"Something had to change. When I went to the ER in an ambulance for a suspected heart attack for the second time in eight months, it was clear that something wasn’t right. When I, for the second time in eight months, was diagnosed with nasty GERD [Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease] mimicking the symptoms of heart attack, it was time to figure out what was going on.

If stress is getting the better of you and your gut is telling you that changing the way you cope with stress is essential, call Auntie Stress. You can find no better teacher." - Lene Andersen

If you are struggling with chronic pain, this book may serve as a catalyst to shift you in a new, healthier direction.

For more information, you can check out the Live Well with Chronic Pain website.

An Interview with Dr. Liza Leal

1. Did the idea for this book just come to you, or was it something that took shape over time?

The idea was formulated after reading many of my favorite authors who write in fictional format vignettes.

Throughout my journey, I found the patients were inspired by stories. My hope was to formulate many personalities into each character to help each reader hopefully identify with one and take on their persona of action, responsibility, small baby steps that would ultimately reach big rewards. Similar to when I started walking by learning to play golf. My mentor would ask me if I wanted to putt. Slowly I would gather my crutches my braces, then stand and putt. Only to see my mentor and the golf cart go across the course at a rapid rate waving and smiling. Tears going down my face, I wondered how would I get to the next point. Then, I would hear a voice from across the fairway saying I could walk that 20 feet. Today, while it is 18 years later, I have been able to accomplish many triathlons. It is believing in ourselves and our future that we can encompass change.

2. What was the hardest part about writing this book?

The hardest part about this book was actually reading the forward that my mentor and business partner wrote. I was overwhelmed hearing it from another individual who is so close to me. He spoke the truth. Writing it helps me to recognize the steps to thoroughly be successful in maintaining an action plan for health. Having been 202 pounds and now thriving at 135, it truly takes action. Admitting that was hard, admitting I struggled to maintain a positive outlook was hard. In addition, during that time I was going through a divorce and I stood on faith that my Life's love story was yet to come. My next book, Cupid's Challenge is the result.

It truly was and is the discipline of knowing and expecting life could be different. As I share with patients, readers and audiences, hope means absolute expectancy. Having a deep faith to dream and the discipline to work your plan...taking one step at a time.

3. You struggled when you were first diagnosed with RA. You had obviously been under the care of other healthcare professionals, but things changed when you met Dr. Foulds. Why do you think he was able to reach inside you and set the "victim" free, when others had not?

At the time, I was attending medical school, so I could relate to the fact that he was a doctor and a dentist. His whole practice is about managing pain and inflammation. He spoke with authority, conviction and enthusiasm. He questioned me, asking what was working for me. Did I have tools in my tool box? He would challenge me and ask why me why the condition was controlling me. He reminded me that I was alive; that I had abilities and options.

Medicine has one generic way of management. Dentistry has a very integrated approach. Through our conversations,  he helped me to clarify my purpose, identify my goals and ask me what my legacy would be. Did that legacy want to include "sick and compromised? These conversations prepared me to own my future and lay the groundwork for helping others with sensitivity, empathy and awareness that other practitioners may not have.

He saw that our paths were converging. The result is Meridian Medical Dental Healthcare in Sugar Land, Texas. 

4. Are you "Tom" or is he a composite of your patients?

I'm all of them and all the characters are characteristics of the patients I treat. I've done this to help the reader identify, then choose and gain control of their lives. For instance, we are what we eat and we become what we think. The mind will always deliver through the vessel called our body.

5. Your work as Chief Medical Officer of Meridian Medical Dental Healthcare must keep you very busy. You live with rheumatoid arthritis, so how do you ensure you have time to keep your 4 Foundations in good repair?

Yes, I live in pain. Our team is our family. We love and take care of each other. Teaching patients and their families about non-verbal communication is very important. If I place a teddy bear pin on my white lapel our team knows that I'm having a bad day and they will adjust my schedule and do what they can to make my day run smoother, which includes having the right nutrition on hand. Salmon works great on these days as well as pineapple. They're both anti-inflammatory foods. I may switch to an anti-inflammatory diet, if my pain is higher than 6/10.

It's about having a plan and putting it into action. This includes getting exercise. Our office service dog, Denali, ensures that I get out for a daily walk.

Each of my patients are encouraged to have a plan. We can modify it as we grow stronger. We can indulge in chocolate cake when we are feeling better. The key is when you are not feeling well, make better choices. Know that it's a choice whether you do or you don't. By being the example, my mission and legacy is to help individuals choose to thrive.

How to maintain happiness: choose it and expect it. Challenge yourself to be hysterically funny. On our team...well, let's face it...I'm the serious one... So, having a belly laugh and making others laugh is a trait to learn. The endorphins it gives off are the best chemical responses that flight inflammation. It's why we have a service dog, she is always happy, always ready to run, always ready to greet you and constantly wagging her tail. A great reminder for me, our team and our family of patients.

6. Do you plan on writing any other books?

Absolutely. The next one is due out in 2016. It's called "Cupid's Challenge: Intimacy in the face of chronic pain." Truthfully, it is for everyone - an inspirational guide to conversation, intimacy, exploration and yes, sex.

7. I have had rheumatoid arthritis for thirty-seven years. The reason I became "Auntie Stress" was because of what I learned about how to transform stress by using heart rate variability. The pay-off came when I noticed I had fewer flare-ups, less pain and when I did have a flare, I was better able to manage it. Do you use this in your practice?

Heart Rate variability is a form of biofeedback and we strongly recommend individuals learn their biorhythms, whether heart rate, temperature or breathing. Stress causes inflammation. Inflammation is the root of all illness and aging. Have you ever noticed happy people always look younger...

How to enter the giveaway:

  1. To enter the giveaway, leave a short comment on this post.
  2. Entries must be received by midnight PST on Tuesday, October 20th, 2015.
  3. This contest is open to anyone of legal age who has a mailing address in Canada or the US.
  4. For extra entries to the draw, get social:
  • On Twitter? Share the following: #Book #giveaway from @AuntieStress for Live Well with Chronic Pain from Dr. Liza Leal: #chronicpain 
  • Make your way over to my Pinterest Board called "Giveaways." Earn one entry by clicking “Comment” then leave one. Earn another entry by re-pinning this giveaway announcement.
  • On Google+? Be sure to +MariannaPaulson when you share the link, and you’ll earn another entry.

One winning entrant will be drawn from a hat.

You will be notified via email. Your name will appear here, as well as on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and in my newsletter.

Good luck!

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