Saturday, September 4, 2010

Positive vibes have definitive curative powers that often turn the tables around when medications fight a losing battle

Dr Love

Outside the world of Bollywood potboilers where emotions make a dead person come alive, the standing of love and other intangibles is often debated. Recently, this newspaper's report of a man from Nallasopara plunging into depression owing to his family's neglect made one sit up and take notice. Earlier it was the case of Mekhala Mukherjee, a schizophrenic abandoned by her family that made headlines. Doctors said if these individuals had received attention, perhaps they could have led a healthy, normal life.
    Scientific studies too are increasingly recognising the role of love and family support in one's recovery from serious ailments. Research at the University of Pittsburgh found that postmenopausal women who were optimistic were less likely to be diabetic. Another study by the Columbia University Medical Center
says that positive emotions protect a person from a first heart attack.
    Here are three case studies that prove the curative powers of a few kind words and unshakeable faith.
    If you don't give up on someone, they won't give up on themselves.' That was Mahesh Killa's rebuttal when told his wife Vimla won't survive for more than three years. The family was already in turmoil after she suffered a brain hemorrhage. After over a month in hospital, she went through a painful process of medication and therapists. When she
just started recovering, doctors detected another aneurysm in the brain. The second surgery saved her life, but she (again) lost her memory, speech and mobility. "I decided that my wife would live irrespective of what doctors said," says Killa.
    Often, recovery after surgery is slow. The patient is flustered by a near-handicapped life and the fami
ly finds it difficult to sustain the level of care. Gradually, (s)he starts withdrawing. "I decided to jam-pack her schedule so she didn't have time for negativity. Also, we decided to never lose our cool with her," says Killa.
    Vimla was never left alone. "We constantly told her about our children's career achievements. Every small improvement in her health was conveyed to her. After she regained mobility, we'd go for movies, walks, and to the club to meet friends. We ensured she was a part of every conversation, though she couldn't speak. When she couldn't go to the club, friends came over," recalls Killa.
    Dr Abhijit Chatterjee, the family's neurophysician, says, "When the person realises that (s)he is needed, the internal motivation aids healing." Also, that she was kept busy "exercised her brain unknowingly". Vimla's recovery even surprised doctors. "Looking at the improvement, doctors refused to believe that the grim CT scan was hers," smiles Killa.
    It's been almost 16 years and Vimla has outlived the three-year concessionary life that science predicted. What worked was her family's support and most importantly, her husband's. "I knew she would live. I just knew it," he gushes.


    How would you determine the extent of your recovery from a terminal ailment? Neerja Malik did it by the number of movies she watched. "The first year of my battle against cancer I watched 56 movies... in the theatre!" laughs the 56-year-old. This humour, coupled with a positive attitude and unending support of dear ones, helped Neerja beat breast cancer twice — in

1998 and in 2004. "I am not a survivor, I am a conqueror," she quips.
    It was an ominous date when she was diagnosed the first time — February 13, 1998. Even as surgery arrangements were being made at her native Chennai, her Mumbai-based family urged her to fly here for treatment and TLC. "In all 25 people came to see me off at the airport. Here I was received by as large a group and every day I had visitors," recalls Neerja.
    The drill of chemotherapy and radi
ation sessions covered the next few months as her family built a wall of positive energy around her. "We never behaved as if we were going through a difficult situation," says her feisty 81-year-old mom Kamala Bhushan. They went for movies, parties, bhajan sessions and card games. Her husband and twins held her hand throughout.
    She recovered but cancer struck more aggressively in 2004. "We did the same all over again," she says. And she again emerged triumphant. "Coping is complex; it includes finding out, accepting, leading a healthy life thereafter… Neerja did it wonderfully," says her oncologist Dr Vijay Haribhakti.
    Meanwhile, Neerja gave life a new direction by setting up a Cancer Support Group in Chennai. She also founded Sahayika, an NGO that funds treatment for children. The role of a counsellor fulfils her the most. "After my second surgery, as I was out of anesthesia, a friend called for some advice for his cancer-afflicted wife. I gave him the dope — from the hospital bed!"
    Two maxims define her life — 'This too shall pass'; 'Love makes the world go around'. "I have only one answer to those who ask how my life is — 'Rocking'!" she says.
    When someone recommended the 'Who Am I' counselling session to Kavita Sanchite, she didn't think twice. Tested HIV positive after her (late) husband, she was "desperate, open to almost anything". "Even if it didn't help, at least it wouldn't harm," she says. Her tryst with medications had already begun as she started falling ill frequently, once even being admitted for a relatively simple illness. "This was 14 years ago. My first (and only) thought was that I have to get out of this," says the Nasik resident.
    With an undertone of spirituality, the three layers of the session concentrated on getting in touch with one's body, mind and soul. "The emphasis is to better one's thinking pattern," says Ranganathan of the counselling group. "Most disorders arise out of negative thoughts — fears, anxieties and suppression of emotions. Asthma and arthritis being the best examples. In case of HIV, even if it's an external agent causing the problem, the fight lies within," he adds.
    Sanchite practised the philosophy zealous
ly and her positive thinking bore results. "To begin with, I stopped blaming others. I accepted that my condition is nobody's fault. It was the most difficult aspect — to accept," she says. Her first step, as Ranganathan explains, "put her in charge. If she is the cause, she'd also have the power to set it right." With the acceptance that everybody makes mistakes, the energy body expands. Another inexplicably simple (but not easy) change that came next was to quit lying. "Despite what I was going through, I felt a never-before-experienced peace," she says. Ranganathan explains, "When you lie, subconsciously, you ask yourself to 'remember' to hide it. With more lies comes more pressure, a very exhausting state of mind to be in." The peace of mind boosted Sanchite's health and miraculously, she was completely off medicines.
    The session, she claims, taught her to listen to her body and get rid of "tensions". "Earlier, I confronted situations with a knee-jerk reaction. Today, I observe and a lot of times, the situation solves itself," she smiles. The near absence of stress played a pivotal role in reclaiming her health. However, she doesn't discount the improved relations with her in-laws and family members whose presence is "comforting". As Ranganathan says, Sanchite's success exemplifies what a positive mind can do. Optimism does have its perks.

DR HARISH SHETTY, counsellor and psychiatrist, elaborates on the role of optimism and positive outlook in your overall health.
» Under stress, the first thing to take a beating is your immunity; you become susceptible to a host of illnesses. Love and attention helps deal with that stress, boosts the biological fight-spirit of the body and hence, is directly connected to one's health. » During illnesses, positive vibes give that much-needed push to the body. Support and care helps release 'happy' chemicals in the brain and helps deal with the imbalance in the body. » Family support is effective in dealing with anything that disturbs one's equilibrium, even an economic disaster, for instance. When a situation is met with a level of acceptance and understanding, it helps him/her think rationally and look for better options he may have hitherto missed. » One can't put 100 per cent in dealing with a situation when there are other preoccupations. That's where the acceptance factor comes in, from the person and of the person, both. It helps resolve old worries.

Mahesh and Vimla Killa (seated centre) share a happy moment with the family

Neerja (centre) with her twins

Monday, August 30, 2010

New Stats Gadgets

Posted by Wiktor Gworek, Software Engineer

Update, 9/29: 
Based upon your feedback, we've added two gadget options:

  1. In the Popular Post gadget, you can now choose the number of posts you want the gadget to display
  2. In the Blog's Stats gadget, we've added an option to let you choose the time window of your pageview counts (All Time, Last 30 days, Last 7 days)
After we launched the Blogger Stats to Blogger in Draft, we’ve made some improvements based on your feedback. (See the updates on our original blog post for the list of changes.) Additionally, we’ve created two new gadgets that you can add to your blog to show your readers interesting stats from your blog: Blog’s stats and Popular Posts gadgets.

The data for these gadgets is automatically taken from Blogger Stats. To use them, go to Design | Page Elements, and click on “Add a gadget.”

The Blog’s stats gadget displays total pageviews* of your blog. The gadget comes in different styles and also features an optional sparkline graph.
(* The pageviews are counted from when we rolled out the Stats feature, not from the first day your blog was created.)

The Popular Posts gadget helps your readers quickly find out which of your posts have been viewed the most by your readers. The gadget also comes with several different styles and configurations.

The new Stats gadgets are available now on Blogger in Draft, so you can go ahead and give them a try now. For any bugs, questions, or suggestions, please send them our way through the comments to this post or our Blogger Help forum.