HE RADIATES HOPE FOR CANCER PATIENTS

By Shell Lessen

Vince Von’s career was decided in childhood. He would not have had it any other way.

The story began in Clovis, New Mexico, a small town just west of the Texas border. The Von family took up residence there after leaving their life-long home in the nation of Laos to become citizens of the United States.

Vince, who was 3 years old when they arrived, attended elementary, junior and senior high schools in Clovis. And when he was old enough he mastered three additional subjects that his schoolmates never had to face.

They were:

*Making sure the entire family, consisting of his grandmother and parents, regularly fulfilled their doctors’ appointments. Vince was only in grade school when he took on this very important chore.

*Interacting with doctors and all others involved in the family’s health issues. The objective was to maintain the most beneficial medical program possible.

*Translating to English the family’s traditional Tai-Ka dai language which is closely related to Thailand’s tongue. Vince would then revert back to Tai-Ka dai to complete a conversations between family members and others.

‘These three “subjects” plus the years spent at Clovis’ schools provided Vince with what might be described as an education within an education at no extra cost. It was made to order for Vince, a student determined to carve out a rewarding future of his own making.

Time well spent

As for that second education, he explained that “I didn’t realize at the time that the hours I put in with so many different doctors and their allied staffs– in addition to caring for my family–fed a desire that had been in my mind since grade school.

Then as now, I had wanted to be in a position to help people suffering with serious health problems like cancer. The more serious the cases were, the more I wanted to do my best as a member of the medical profession.”

A happy bachelor

Fourteen years ago this benign dream began to give way to reality. Vince earned his Bachelor Degree in radiation therapy. He graduated from the University of Arkansas For Medical Sciences in Little Rock. UAMS is the largest academic health center in the state of Arkansas.

It is also 1,482.8 miles east of Beverly Hills, California, site of The Center for Radiation Therapy of Beverly Hills where Vince has worked for the last eight years.

Selecting a winner

What drew him all the way to The Golden State?

Plenty, as Vince saw it.

For starters, he pointed out that “the Center’s staff is outstanding. It consists of four eminent board-certified oncologists and cancer specialists, as well as an oncology nurse, a physicist and, of course, radiation therapists.

“Their equipment is state- of -the- art, providing the latest technology and a superior radiation treatment plan for most cancers. Also, radiation dosimeters are available to precisely measure radiation exposure and doses.

Only the best will do

“In addition, three first-rate machines are in operation at the center. One is for treatment planning only and the other two deliver radiation for treatment. We also work with imaging and guidance equipment to ensure accurate positioning and tumor targeting,’’ he explained.

Vince’s chief responsibility is to deliver prescribed treatment daily and make sure the plan is properly executed.

To say the least, he became quite thoughtful when asked what character traits he believes a student would need to carry out the duties of a radiation therapist.

Those who make the grade

His reply was “She or he must have compassion, and in my opinion, they should also be detail-oriented, computer-literate, a problem-solver and have a positive outlook on life.

He was quick to point out that the first and last traits named are specially important “because, in many cases, they can bring hope to patients who need it as much as medication.”

A sense of humor is another trait, not required but definitely welcome, at The Center For Radiation Therapy. Most of the patients have one—and they come in various types. For example, some “Haves” smile frequently. Others whistle loud or soft music. Then there are “Haves” who tell all kinds of jokes. “You can spot them right away. And these patients often perk the others up.

Vince to the rescue

Then there are the “Have-nots.” Quiet, pessimistic, worried. Vince has dedicated part of his job to keeping the “Haves” happy and turn sad “Have-Nots” into “Haves.”

He definitely is the man to do it!

Friendly, smiley, optimistic, good-looking Vince Von is also the first citizen of another planet ever to visit Earth. At least that’s the running gag he tries to get his patients to go along with– in hopes that cancer talk and cancer thoughts can be pushed aside and forgotten for a while.

Just imagine making small talk about the heavy traffic in L.A or the Dodgers’ latest victory or the smog with someone (or some thing) whose home is a planet named REINIER billions of miles away.

Vince Von can…with a smile.

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SHE LOVES BALLET BUT PHYSICAL THERAPY COMES FIRST

By Shell Lessen

“Arabesque” and “pirouette” were not the first words uttered by Ali Elder in her infancy. But if they were, it wouldn’t have been surprising. After all, Ali grew up practicing ballet and was exposed to its terminology almost from day one.

Along with developing lasting love for ballet, as she matured, Ali became fascinated by the intricate positions the body can attain when properly trained for ballet and exercises in general.

In fact, there was a time when her interest in body movements was so intense that when performing in ballet dance classes she would forget the next step.

A deep thinker

Ali attributes this to the fact that “my mind was off somewhere thinking about how amazing it is that our bodies are capable of mastering dancing’s most difficult positions and movements. I was also extremely interested in the forces that differentiate every dancer’s movement.”

In time, of course, the habit of overlooking steps disappeared, buried under countless hours of work that lifted Ali’s performance to the level of a professional—while she was still in high school. Handling the daily demands of school plus the pressures of professional dancing appearances was far from easy. Nevertheless, she excelled in both.

Meeting the challenge

Ditto excellence at her next stop as well: California State University at Long Beach and its unique Dance Science course.

Ali explained that CSULB required a dance audition to qualify for its program. But also essential were physical science classes including such subjects as anatomy and physics. They may be appropriate for science majors, but they were big bad barriers for liberal arts dancing students. Reason: most of them had little or no interest or experience in these fields of physical science.

Ali, however, was quite willing to take on whatever CSULB had to offer in the way of requirements. The word “can’t” simply is not in her vocabulary. “DETERMINED” is, in capital letters.

A professor’s happy helper

In spite of her busy and challenging schedule at CSULB she somehow found time to serve as an assistant to the renowned Professor Karen Clippinger. She was assigned to the professor’s Body Placement and Anatomy for Dancers Classes.

Professor Clippinger is known worldwide for her lifelong work on application of scientific principles to alignment and movement performance while lowering injury risk.

She has given more than 400 presentations in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, and Europe and worked with the Joffrey Ballet Dance Company, and Pacific Northwest Ballet among others throughout the United States. In addition, much of her writing has been translated into eight languages throughout Europe and Asia.

Nothing but the best

“Assisting Professor Clippinger was a great honor and pleasure,” Ali said. “In a sense, my CSULB career was launched in her classes that teach body placement and anatomy for dancers.”

Ali added that “working between semesters, I also earned my Body Arts and Science Pilates certification from Professor Clippinger.

“Most important was that I came to realize studying movement and its application in the form of the Pilates physical fitness system made me want to be the best trained physical therapist possible.”

And the best wanted her.

In 2012 she was accepted by USC’S number one ranked physical therapy school in America.

Discovering one of a kind

While at USC, she spent an internship at re+active physical therapy and services in Los Angeles, a company specializing in outpatient neurologic physical therapy. “And I found it to be extremely forward-looking,” she noted.

Her observation was on target. For example, when she arrived, re+active was in the process of setting up the very first movement disorders fellowship program serving physical therapists anywhere. The project was undertaken jointly with the Movement Disorders Clinic of UCLA.

It is specially designed to provide individualized training involving treatment of Parkinson’s diseases and syndromes, plus Huntington as well as other genetic diseases. The team of UCLA and re+active bases its one of-a-kind service on the particular interests and goals of entering fellows.

Founded in 2011, re+active is one of the few outpatient neurologic physical therapy facilities in operation. Its staff includes four physical therapists, along with a part time occupational therapist. Available weekly are wellness classes for voice, yoga and skilled-based training instruction.

On the job

In May of 2015 Ali graduated and went to work full time at re+active, having earned a doctorate in physical therapy. In addition, she was named the first Movement Disorders Fellow.

With this honor comes the opportunity to attend numerous educational courses, observe experts in the field of movement disorders, and speak at community events focusing on the benefits of physical activity.

Ali Elder has been cited for a number of outstanding achievements since those high school/professional ballet days.

But when asked to name the most gratifying honor of all, she answered: “seeing creativity applied and progress achieved with our clients in a very short period of time, and being part of it all.”

An answer to be expected.

 

 

WHEN A KID NEEDS A FRIEND …by Shell Lessen

“Cute, huggable teddy bears in a court of law! Is that really appropriate?” I asked.

The question came up while interviewing the subject of this blog. “Absolutely,” she replied. “Things run more smoothly when teddy bears are available in Juvenile Dependency Court,” declared Nancy Rabin Brucker, Esq., a vigorous, very much involved attorney specializing in California juvenile dependency law.

Juvenile dependency law deals with allegations of abuse or neglect of children investigated by the Department of Children and Family Services.

It seems that hugging a teddy bear brings on a feeling of security in these children who must attend courtroom proceedings, particularly the first-timers. Without a familiar Teddy they tend to become quite uncomfortable among such strange unknown surroundings.

Supplying this welcomed gift is a charity known as Comfort For Court Kids. “CCK provides free, friendly teddy bears for one and all,” Nancy explained.

Someone to count on

The kids may not realize it, but Nancy herself ranks high on the list of their good friends, right up there with the teddies. Caring about—and caring for—children have always been imperative “to do’s” in her life. So it comes as no surprise that she is a founding member and longtime supporter of Comfort for Court Kids.

Also, close-up caring has made this devoted re-married divorcee well versed in the ways of children. She has raised three of her own, on her own.

Adding to her understanding of child-family relations and problems are over 31 years of representing parents, foster parents and relatives in juvenile dependency cases. She has also represented youngsters in family law matters. Above all, Nancy has dedicated herself to keeping the families she serves together.

Searching for satisfaction

That’s quite a remarkable resume’ for someone who had no interest in becoming a lawyer for quite a while after graduating from high school. Nor did she jump with joy at the opportunity to be one of the many college-bound girls of the 50’s who registered for courses leading to a teaching career. Teaching was considered “The Career” for girls in those days.

Despite her anti-teacher feelings, she decided to give the pre-teaching program a try and joined the crowd at UCLA for a while. Then quit. She did take a job as a legal secretary. As Nancy sees it “the profession itself interested me. Being a part of it just didn’t appeal to me.”

Years later Nancy took advantage of a UCLA program designed to determine whether or not she had the skills to pursue a law career. The results were positive.

“One reason why I was drawn to the law was the fact that a brother of mine, whom I greatly admired, was a lawyer deriving much happiness and personal satisfaction from his work. He enjoyed the kind of payback I was looking for in a career. Ironically my brother died at the age of 35.

On the right path

In 1977 she finally took a step toward the Bar by enrolling in the University of West Los Angeles Law School—still without actually practicing law in mind. “You might say I did it mainly to have something worthwhile to do. Nothing more,” Nancy stated.

That “something” turned into a serious interest in the law, which blossomed into graduating with high honors; passing the bar the first time around; and subsequently launching a private practice.

The private practice part of her transformation was the only alternative. Jobs at most law firms were rarely open to inexperienced family law practitioners. That, at this point, defined Nancy’s professional life to a T.

A can-do lawyer

Without doubt, going it alone was the right decision. It was the key to the opening chapter of a success story. During the next 12 years the practice grew steadily. So did the question of its identity. The end of that period was Decision Time.

Nancy’s practice included both family law and juvenile dependency. To be determined was: should Nancy Rabin Brucker Esq. continue to practice in both areas or was Juvenile Dependency where it could do the most good, bringing maximum satisfaction to its CEO?

On this issue, as in so many others, Nancy chalked up one more wise decision. Juvenile Dependency won out, as did countless Los Angeles area families with legal problems—then and now.

But skillful management of her law firm is only part of Nancy’s success story. She also serves as an appellate attorney, receiving court appointments from the Court Of Appeal for indigent parents in juvenile dependencies.

This is in addition to representing parents, foster parents and relatives in the trial courts.

Finally, she has been a consultant for “California Juvenile Dependency Practice,” published by Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB).

Ready when needed

Clearly, Nancy’s record of service is remarkably extensive. For many people its most meaningful commitment is a pledge that all clients will have ready access to her around the clock.

To assure service, each client is given Nancy’s cell phone number. She thinks of this as “a teddy bear program for our clientele. It’s a service they deserve.”

Making a good thing better

According to Nancy, families involved in Juvenile Dependency cases deserve a number of other expanded services as well. And she is behind them one hundred percent. Among the most essential are:

-More social workers to assist the families.

-More funds allotted to maintaining children receiving in-home care.

-More systems for therapeutic health services.

-More financial help to Comfort for Court Kids.

It’s all quite clear that in representing her clients, Nancy Rabin Brucker represents the best of her profession as well.

THE GOOD NEWS GIRL by Shell Lessen

But first the bad news…

This year’s edition of Gallup’s “State of the U.S. Workforce” included 150,000 respondents, 70 percent of whom reported that that they either hate their jobs or, in Galluptalk, are “disengaged” from them.

Now some good news:  They have alternatives—more than they might think.  A number of major industries are waving welcome mats at qualified people in search of interesting, challenging and rewarding jobs. People like senior speech-language pathologist Jennifer Bullaro.

In her field alone, at least 28,000 new openings will be created before 2020, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics projections.

Seniors on the march

Jennifer noted that the surge in demand is largely attributable to the growing number of elderly patients throughout the country. “This steady increase assures job security as well,” she added.

For her, there are plenty of other incentives. “As a speech-language pathologist, I am in a position to provide direct help in correcting serious health problems. That, in itself, is a source of job satisfaction. I am also fortunate enough to be working with caring, highly skilled professionals in an extremely pleasant environment. The entire experience is constantly broadening my skills. It’s a marvelous mixture of working and learning.”

A seven-year veteran in her field, Jennifer is in practice at UCLA Health System in Los Angeles. In addition to treating adult speech and language disorders, she deals with swallowing difficulties and speech-language troubles arising from head and neck cancer, stroke and Parkinson’s disease.

A long to-do list       

“Much of what I do for patients is based on quality of life issues such as lingering hoarseness, inappropriate pitch and harsh voice. Some cases, however, are tragically debilitating,” she pointed out.

“One of my most memorable cases in this category involved a young man in his 20’s who was unable to communicate verbally. He simply could not move the muscles that control speech. I finally arranged for him to have a specially designed computer that was accessible by using one’s eyes.  In a very real sense, this remarkable ‘tool’ became his voice by enabling him to communicate via the typewritten word.”

Surprise, surprise!

It’s difficult to believe that this young lady, who so enthusiastically embraces her job now, did not choose speech-language pathology as a career. “Quite the opposite, it sort of chose me,” she said.

“When I was an undergraduate at Duke University, I decided to become part of the medical profession. I crossed becoming a doctor off my list because most of them have work schedules that are so full they can only spend a certain amount of time with each patient. I didn’t want to work under that restriction.”

Because Duke’s pre-med courses were open only to pre-med students, Jennifer was at an impasse. The dream of finding a pathway to the healthcare profession was beginning to fade when a sympathetic counselor came to the rescue. She suggested that Jennifer look into Duke’s speech therapy program. Jennifer did and soon she was hooked.

Newcomer makes good

However this pathway came complete with a new twist.  “I knew nothing about speech-language pathology. I had no real interest in it. I had never even heard of it,” she pointed out. But diligence, determination and excellent instructors combined to help her turn things around. The future brightened; the pathway straightened and she could see a satisfying career at the end of the journey.

Jennifer graduated from Duke and went on to earn a Master’s Degree at Vanderbilt University. Sandwiched in between were four months of supplemental “on my own study in Paris.” The curriculum there included history and psychology.

When it came time to trade the academic life for a regular paycheck, she returned to her alma mater as a speech-language pathologist at Duke Medical Center. Five years later she joined the staff of UCLA.

Jennifer noted proudly that “state-of-the-art equipment, plus advances achieved through extensive on-going research, have helped make UCLA’s speech-language pathologists highly effective and very much in demand. Best of all, we can anticipate making even greater strides in the years to come.”

Help where needed     

Viewing the future from a personal standpoint, she characteristically sees herself “helping to expand awareness of speech-language therapy’s benefits via community outreach programs.

As for the present, here’s hoping that the small sample job list below will prove helpful for some unhappy employees and job-hunters as well.

HEALTHCARE—Many hospitals need pharmacists, radiology and laboratory technicians, as well as maintenance staff. Registered nurse positions are available in 89 percent of the hospitals in the U.S.

It is estimated that over the next decade 103,900 nurses and 7,850 physical therapists will be needed to sustain the current standard of care.

CHILD CARE—Also during next decade, researchers expect 532,100 new jobs to be created in childcare facilities.

TECHNOLOGY—By 2018, openings for software programmers and systems analysts will rise 20 percent.

ENGINEERING—In a recent survey of employers, 88 percent reported that they could not find enough qualified engineers.

SALES AND MANUFACTURING—72 percent of employers face a shortage of sales people.

For information on additional job openings, visit bls.gov/jlt

                                                                                                 

THE GOOD NEWS GIRL   by Shell Lessen

But first the bad news…   

This year’s edition of Gallup’s “State of the U.S. Workforce” included 150,000 respondents, 70 percent of whom reported that that they either hate their jobs or, in Galluptalk, are “disengaged” from them.

Now some good news:  They have alternatives—more than they might think.  A number of major industries are waving welcome mats at qualified people in search of interesting, challenging and rewarding jobs. People like senior speech-language pathologist Jennifer Bullaro.

In her field alone, at least 28,000 new openings will be created before 2020, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics projections.

Seniors on the march

Jennifer noted that the surge in demand is largely attributable to the growing number of elderly patients throughout the country. “This steady increase assures job security as well,” she added.

For her, there are plenty of other incentives. “As a speech-language pathologist, I am in a position to provide direct help in correcting serious health problems. That, in itself, is a source of job satisfaction. I am also fortunate enough to be working with caring, highly skilled professionals in an extremely pleasant environment. The entire experience is constantly broadening my skills. It’s a marvelous mixture of working and learning.”

A seven-year veteran in her field, Jennifer is in practice at UCLA Health System in Los Angeles. In addition to treating adult speech and language disorders, she deals with swallowing difficulties and speech-language troubles arising from head and neck cancer, stroke and Parkinson’s disease.

A long to-do list       

“Much of what I do for patients is based on quality of life issues such as lingering hoarseness, inappropriate pitch and harsh voice. Some cases, however, are tragically debilitating,” she pointed out. 

 “One of my most memorable cases in this category involved a young man in his 20’s who was unable to communicate verbally. He simply could not move the muscles that control speech. I finally arranged for him to have a specially designed computer that was accessible by using one’s eyes.  In a very real sense, this remarkable ‘tool’ became his voice by enabling him to communicate via the typewritten word.”

Surprise, surprise!

It’s difficult to believe that this young lady, who so enthusiastically embraces her job now, did not choose speech-language pathology as a career. “Quite the opposite, it sort of chose me,” she said.

“When I was an undergraduate at Duke University, I decided to become part of the medical profession. I crossed becoming a doctor off my list because most of them have work schedules that are so full they can only spend a certain amount of time with each patient. I didn’t want to work under that restriction.”

Because Duke’s pre-med courses were open only to pre-med students, Jennifer was at an impasse. The dream of finding a pathway to the healthcare profession was beginning to fade when a sympathetic counselor came to the rescue. She suggested that Jennifer look into Duke’s speech therapy program. Jennifer did and soon she was hooked.

Newcomer makes good

However this pathway came complete with a new twist.  “I knew nothing about speech-language pathology. I had no real interest in it. I had never even heard of it,” she pointed out. But diligence, determination and excellent instructors combined to help her turn things around. The future brightened; the pathway straightened and she could see a satisfying career at the end of the journey.   

Jennifer graduated from Duke and went on to earn a Master’s Degree at Vanderbilt University. Sandwiched in between were four months of supplemental “on my own study in Paris.” The curriculum there included history and psychology.

When it came time to trade the academic life for a regular paycheck, she returned to her alma mater as a speech-language pathologist at Duke Medical Center. Five years later she joined the staff of UCLA.

Jennifer noted proudly that “state-of-the-art equipment, plus advances achieved through extensive on-going research, have helped make UCLA’s speech-language pathologists highly effective and very much in demand. Best of all, we can anticipate making even greater strides in the years to come.”

Help where needed     

Viewing the future from a personal standpoint, she characteristically sees herself “helping to expand awareness of speech-language therapy’s benefits via community outreach programs.

As for the present, here’s hoping that the small sample job list below will prove helpful for some unhappy employees and job-hunters as well.

HEALTHCARE—Many hospitals need pharmacists, radiology and laboratory technicians, as well as maintenance staff. Registered nurse positions are available in 89 percent of the hospitals in the U.S.

It is estimated that over the next decade 103,900 nurses and 7,850 physical therapists will be needed to sustain the current standard of care.

CHILD CARE—Also during next decade, researchers expect 532,100 new jobs to be created in childcare facilities.

TECHNOLOGY—By 2018, openings for software programmers and systems analysts will rise 20 percent.

ENGINEERING—In a recent survey of employers, 88 percent reported that they could not find enough qualified engineers.

SALES AND MANUFACTURING—72 percent of employers face a shortage of sales people.

For information on additional job openings, visit bls.gov/jlt

                                                                                                 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARIA’S TOUCHING STORY

Representing different faiths and no faiths, yet bonded together in sadness, a small group of people gathered to say final goodbyes to the bedridden young woman as her passing neared.

Present were her divorced parents—her father, an observant Jew, and her soon-to-remarry mother, who holds alternative beliefs.  Also in attendance were her sister, an advocate of her mother’s beliefs, and the young woman’s caretaker, a fundamentalist Christian.

Joining them was Maria Bartolotta, her pastoral counselor for many years, who turned out to be a greater source of consolation on this day than anticipated.

Maria originally agreed to provide care and counseling until the young woman reached the end of this life.  The commitment deepened when, with the woman’s passing imminent, Maria was asked to compose a prayer appropriate to the occasion yet comforting to everyone in the room.

A challenging test      

Suddenly this non-sectarian minister was expected to give one transcendent voice to people whose religious views were shaped by diametrically opposed disciplines.

This call for spiritual help had to be answered to the satisfaction of everyone in the room, with each person’s particular belief taken into consideration. And that answer was needed immediately. It was a difficult call, indeed. But one that Maria heard and heeded.

Secluded for a short time in what she described as “sacred space,” she quickly created a prayer that expressed the group’s “one-size-fits-all” requirement with the clarity, humility and, most important, the sincerity the moment deserved.

Appreciation was unanimous. So was the gratitude of a group of people—highly diverse in belief systems, yet perfectly comfortable with each other in prayer. Maria’s prayer.

We can also underline the word “appreciation.” For not long after her daughter’s passing, her mother asked Maria to officiate at her upcoming wedding. Maria, who had comforted the young woman to the end, accepted the invitation.

A long history of caring

Maria sees the gathering’s request for a prayer as “both a challenge and a special opportunity to be of help. I simply could not ignore it. My training developed in me the capacity to do the work. I gladly supplied the will.”

Pastoral counselors are trained to utilize both spirituality and psychotherapy when treating mental, physical and emotional health problems. This branch of counseling is made up of clergymen, clergywomen and laypersons of all faiths—or of none.  Due to its inclusive nature, pastoral counseling was tailor-made for Maria Bartolotta.

One might even call it predestined. “Since childhood, I have felt a certain energy flowing through my body. Growing up on Long Island in New York, I knew intuitively that the feeling had something to do with my ultimate career, even though what I now do for a living did not even exist at that time,” she pointed out.

The wonders of Qi

According to people around the world—in and out of the medical profession—the energy she intuitively felt then and understands so well now is instrumental in helping people. It is known as life energy, a centuries-old cornerstone of medicine in the Far East and several other cultures. Life energy is referred to as Qi, Chi, Prahna and several other names, depending on the country in which it is used.

A network of pathways called meridians carries the life force and its healing powers to wherever needed throughout the body.

By touching the client with her hands, Maria starts this health-giving journey and augments the vital life force while removing impediments to health in the body. “Through touching, I direct life force to the trouble spot. This is possible because touching enables me to feel a client’s pain or pressure. As a result, I can track the flow to the correct destination,” she explained.

Reflexology is another therapy that has proved helpful to Maria and her colleagues. Treatment involves directing the flow of life force by pressing pressure points at the bottom of the patient’s feet. The points are so thoroughly connected to the body they can send health-restoring life force to any afflicted body part, organ, or gland.

Maria’s home sweet spiritual home

Maria mastered these and other healing techniques after years of study, exploration and just plain caring. Her early education was twofold. She was taught by alternative teachers whose backgrounds were both medical and spiritual, as well as teachers who were skilled in regular curricula subjects from elementary through high school.

Maria enrolled in the State University of New York at Binghamton after graduating from high school in 1971. She graduated from SUNY with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1974. Next stop was Europe, where she visited family in Sicily, taught English and expanded her spiritual capabilities.

In the late 1970s, she made a move of great personal significance—to Los Angeles. “Here I discovered the non-sectarian Healing Light Center Church. This, in itself, was a blessing,” she happily remarked.

Maria enrolled in the church’s seminary program for training ministers and healers. The program is facilitated by Rev. Rosalyn Bruyere, an internationally known, highly respected practitioner in the field.

Sharing reality

Maria connected with the reverend quickly and easily. “Until I met Rosalyn, I had never known anyone who shared my reality—a reality that is one with spirituality. The first time I heard Rosalyn speak I realized that I had finally come home.”

Immersed in her studies, Maria remained at Healing Light for the next 5-1/2 years. She graduated in February 1983 with a degree in Natural Theology and Sacred Healing from The Healing Light Center Church Seminary.

The years of service begin

She was ordained a pastoral counselor in January 1984, after serving the required yearlong intern-style practice period.

As an ordained pastoral counselor, she represents a major provider of alternative health services throughout the United States. Today pastoral counseling accounts for over three million hours of treatment annually in both institutional and private settings, according to the organization Pastoral Counseling for Growth. Moreover, surveys show that seven out of ten Americans have undergone alternative therapy.

Unquestionably, increasing numbers of patients and professional caregivers are recognizing the value of alternative therapies in general and life energy therapy in particular. Meanwhile, alternative therapists continue to spread the word.

Rev. Bruyere, for example, is active in joint efforts among patients, physicians and healers. She frequently teams up with physicians to study and promote healing and health of individual patients. Without doubt, Rev. Bruyere plays a role in the worldwide trend of bridging the gap between alternative and Western medicine.

Growth and good work

Further evidence of this trend is the fact that Maria’s clientele includes people from a number of cultures and countries. Like her U.S. clients, the “offshore” group is comprised of early trauma victims.

Her door and her heart are open to members of all organized religions as well as those with no religious affiliations—atheists included. For the record, she subscribes to no organized religion. “My belief system is Pantheism, which recognizes God in everything on the planet,” she stated.

Next year marks her 30th anniversary as a pastoral counselor. More to the point, it is the beginning of her 4th decade of:

—Helping babies enter the world and seniors leave it unafraid and at peace.

—Giving hope and support to the depressed, a measure of self-respect to the drug-plagued and joy to newlyweds.

—Showing traumatized people ways to rid themselves of pain so they can sleep at night and function productively daily.

—Often paying closer attention to the turbulent lives of her clients than to the serenity of her own life.

Some people might see all this as 30 years of sacrifice. Maria would most likely look at it as three extremely rewarding decades of service. Also rewarded in numerous life-enhancing ways are the clients she has touched over the years.

THE YOGA CURE

D.L. Sweet is both altruistic and realistic. Ironically these traits, so desirable for most of us, brought disappointment, doubt and unfulfilled hopes during most of her adult life.

For years she held on to a cherished dream that somehow, someday she would make helping people her life’s work. But the realist in her trumped the altruist by continually cautioning against it. For good reason. She could not help anyone until she first helped herself. The question was HOW.

“The problem was (and to a lesser extent still is) my Type A personality. Considering the way I lived, they should have invented a Type triple A rating for me,” she declared.

Life In the fast lane

Type A people have the temperament of a NASCAR driver. They speed through life at a dizzying, sometimes health-threatening pace with stress as a constant companion. In D.L.’s case, digestive difficulties also came along for the ride. She was, moreover, a workaholic, a controlling person and very competitive.

In addition, D.L. suffered from a serious sinus condition, another product of her lifestyle. It peaked when the multiple antibiotics being used to treat the problem not only proved to be ineffective; they wiped out all the beneficial bacteria in her colon as well.

As a result, she lost more than 10 pounds and experienced frequent periods of fatigue.

One aspect of D.L.’s life has remained unaffected—her career. She is a Senior Account Executive at a firm providing assistance to companies that rely on special promotions to help strengthen their brands’ positions in the marketplace. A respected veteran of more than 20 years in the field, she has enjoyed much success.

Keeping pace and then some

In many ways, her accomplishments can be attributed to her Type A personality. It is in tune with the pressure-packed, deadline-oriented nature of her profession, with its virtually nonstop demand for creative solutions to marketing challenges. Exciting? Yes. Exhausting? Guaranteed.

Fortunately, the realist in D.L. started putting everything into perspective a few years ago. “I knew this couldn’t go on. I was overwrought and headed for even more illness and agony than I already had. Without question, I had to adjust the emotional volume control down,” she explained.

D.L. reasoned that the situation seemed tailor-made for psychotherapy, and decided to give it a try. It wasn’t a perfect fit.  After more than a year of therapy, she pronounced herself  “more aware of my problems.” She also came down a few notches on the high-strung scale. Most important was the fact that she was willing to embrace change, but on the downside she was still unfulfilled.

“At that point it was suggested that I try restorative Yoga. I was told that the objective of this branch of Yoga is to put the practitioner and his or her spirituality in balance. By doing so the person would in time become calm, healthier and better able to cope with pressure.’

Hope springs eternal

Full of hope, D.L. enrolled in a restorative Yoga class in 2010, but “for some reason I didn’t feel ready to accept Yoga at that time. After a few months I dropped out.”

The next year she changed her mind—which, this time, changed her life. She decided to give Yoga and herself a second chance, and chose to practice Vinyasa Flow Yoga. That choice turned things around beautifully.

Vinyasa Flow is a restorative Yoga variation based on poses. As explained in an article published by FitDay, an online weight loss/diet journal, “poses (postures) are linked together in a series of movements synchronized with the breath inhaled and exhaled. Emphasis is put on breath and transition in and out of the poses.”

She has been practicing this restorative Yoga for three years. In that time she calmed down considerably and her sinus condition disappeared. “I’m relaxed and more at peace with myself and others. It’s been a very renewing experience but it’s just one step, though a big one, on the way to my ultimate goal—my dream, if you will.

The goal is in sight

“I have to practice one more year to qualify as a certified Yoga instructor. Then being able to help others becomes reality for me.”

And what a meaningful reality it will be. The plan is to create a studio in her home where she will teach restorative Yoga and also apply its techniques to sufferers of muscular and vertebrae ailments. Additionally, the focus will be on senior citizens. They’re most susceptible to these medical conditions, due to falls, other kinds of accidents, or just plain aging.

Continual movements from one pose to another provide added cardiovascular benefits, while increasing muscle strength, endurance, flexibility and stress reduction.

Next stop good health

FitDay likens Vinyasa Flow Yoga to “a dance powered by inhaling and exhaling.” To complete the comparison, all forms of restorative Yoga can be considered dances complete with props. They facilitate the movements among different poses as well as the breathing. Their prop lists include blankets, bolsters, chairs and ‘sticky mats’ designed to adhere to floors, keeping participants safe from slipping.

A recent study by Yoga Journal puts the number of Americans practicing Yoga at 15.8 million. The percentage breakdown is 72.2% women, 27.8% men.

The guess here is that not one of them—male or female—is more gratified with the results of their efforts than D.L. Sweet.