Curiosity Saved the Cat

By Kristen Knott

“A new year has begun.” I say to our two fat cats sprawled on the couch, close to me, protecting or seeking protection. I am never sure which. Why I did not want these cats, or any cats for that matter gives me pause.

The holiday season a blur, and snow piling outside, the furnace pumps to keep the deep freeze at bay. My mind is busy, remembering darker times. I am not sure what I thought would happen when I got to this moment. Images of pink balloons and roses, and savory smells, the pop of a champagne cork followed by a devilish squeal, and the contentment of an endless amount of love.

It’s impossible to forget the day it began, like a slap across the face. June 6, 2013. That date is clear. But when did the cancer-free clock begin? Would it be the removal of my tumors? Or the last round of chemo –the final infusion, or the three-weeks of healing that followed? How does one determine the exact calendar day to circle in red flagging “Day one”?

All those people, that swooped in with the diagnosis, friends, family, strangers, that baked and cooked and sent flowers, that [...] continue the story

Bringing HS (Hidradenitis Suppurativa) Out Of The Dark | Jackson Gillies | TEDxSantaBarbara

Have you ever woken up one morning to discover an abscess that would grow to the size of a baseball in your armpit? I have. I have HS or Hidradenitis Suppurativa, and so does up to 4% of the population. That’s 230 million people, and yet no one is talking about it. Well, I will. Jackson Gillies, an 18-year-old student at SBCC. His life took a significant turn when he won Santa Barbara’s Teen Star USA crown in 2016. He has performed at the Concert to End Gun Violence Across America with Kenny Loggins and opened for Jim Messina.

Four years ago Jackson developed the first sign of another disease. After a few misdiagnoses, his condition was pegged as Hidradenitis Suppurativa, an autoinflammatory disease that causes painful skin abscesses. HS afflicts as many as 4% of the population (potentially 30 million people), yet is rarely discussed or studied. HS can be physically, psychologically, and socially debilitating, the lesions affecting the most sensitive parts of the body, places where there is skin to skin contact.

Despite all this, and after five surgeries, Jackson conceived, produced, and starred in the “Something That Matters Concert” to raise awareness about Hidradenitis Suppurativa. He was the first [...] continue the story

Saryn Caister – How Can I Help You?

Saryn’s friends and family struggled to know how to help him when he got really sick. But relief can come from strange sources.

Saryn hosts an amazing radio show and podcast that covers environmental issues. Find it at:

Refocusing The Lens – Unconditional love

PHOTOVOICE is an engagement and empowerment strategy that uses photography as a tool for social change. It gives any group the opportunity to record, reflect on, and critique personal and community issues in a creative way.

The aim of this project is to motivate participants to be actively involved in decisions that affect their own lives, while decreasing stigma and broadening understanding of their personal struggles. The resulting exhibit, REFOCUSING THE LENS, features the work of five participants who have documented their personal experiences with mental health, eager to represent them to the outside world. Unconditional love,  By Aidan

Artist’s Statement

Bolt is the best dog in the world. All dog owners say that but he is truly the kindest, most gentle puppy who only has love in his heart. He wouldn’t hurt anyone and is always trying to please the people he encounters. His only flaw is that he loves to bark. In my darkest times he would bring a smile to my face. I can recall one particular visit he made to me while I was in the hospital- he was so excited to see me. I remember going to bed so content knowing that my little pup was happy to see [...] continue the story

A Hospital Christmas circa 1960

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life” – Richard Bach

CONFESSIONS In preparation for the suggested snow that may be coming I did a quick roll over to the mall to grab the last “essentials” I may need for the next couple of days.  It was a sunny day here but cold as a witches…well you know the saying and a strong wind was blowing.

Got to the mall and it was chaos.  There was what looked like a line up for the munchkin characters auditioning for a remake of The Wizard of Oz.  This was the first crowd I had encountered that I could actually see over.  It is that time of year when I am eye level with more people (children) and they don’t all have pointy ears.  As I got closer I realized it was the line-up for the photo with Santa.  I haven’t given it much though recently because everything I need to do is done.  All that is left is to get the gifts over to my son and grandson.

Christmas for me has become very simple.  I kind of prefer it that way.  Takes me [...] continue the story

5 Transformational Themes that Will Rock the World of Health Care

Helen Bevan has been a leader of large scale change in the English National Health Service for more than 20 years. What does Helen think is going to shake health care? She told us during a plenary presentation at Quality Forum 2015. Helen is the Chief Transformation Officer of the Horizons Team at NHS Improving Quality. She is acknowledged globally for her expertise in large scale change and ability to translate it into practical action and deliver outcomes. She provides advice, guidance and training on transformational change to leaders of healthcare systems across the world. She is a source of energy and inspiration for change and helps to “think the unthinkable”. In 2008, the 60th anniversary of the National Health Service, Helen was recognised as one of the 60 most influential people in the history of the NHS.

View and download her presentation file at

The White Noise of Activism

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” – Martin Luther King Jr That quote has been a mantra of mine for over forty years.  It was eight years after his death before I discovered it.  The essence of that sentence became a way of life for me much to the chagrin of those closest to me.  I am not known for my quiet servitude.  I pride myself on my ability to assess a situation through a number of lenses and then take action.  If it is something I consider an injustice I am never “silent”.  Activism is in my DNA. If those closest to us don’t get why will anybody else? I was 14 years old when my activism career began. It was a combination of internal development ignited by external events.  Fourteen is a difficult time in the developmental process of a teenager.  With puberty happening and the Limbic System kicking in it is a precarious time for the development of a psychosocial persona.  This isn’t restricted to kids in a hospital but something every teenager faces.  In the community an angry teen can act out in many ways but you have limited options in a controlled environment like a hospital.  You [...] continue the story

Simple Steps

My mother shivered when she found out I had to be vaccinated at a hospital outpatient center, since the vaccination was only available at that hospital at that time. It was a vaccination required by the student health center at my university. “I’m sure it’ll be okay,” I assured her. “Plus, it would be another nurse who will perform the vaccination, so there is a chance she knows how to sanitize properly.”  My mother wrinkled her nose and said, “I’m coming with you to the hospital just to be sure.” After we checked in with the receptionist, my mother and I were asked to be seated. As we waited, I imagined the basic steps the nurse would have to do in order to perform a proper vaccination. Change the gloves or don’t wear gloves at all. Disinfect the area that will be vaccinated with cotton balls soaked in 75% alcohol. Perform the vaccination. Cover and press the area with another soaked cotton ball. Wait for several minutes and place a sterilized bandage on the wound. While the steps may sound easy, it’s no wonder how many medical professionals often forget the simplest steps. “Hello. I’m your nurse today, and I’ll be performing the vaccination,” [...] continue the story

The Fields of Kindness

Caroline cooks for us on the Soul Biographies RETREATS in England. No shadow of doubt, it is artistry. And in June, as time stood itself still, she walked towards the camera as if beckoned by something more powerful than the need to be seen.

What happened next was as naked as naked can be. A courageous and utterly beautiful articulation of the sheer weight and terror of depression. And of a place arrived at. A place that had always been there.

More films by Nic Askew

No Rhyme or Reason

By Kristen Knott

Written January 23, 2016

A surge of nausea crashes through my belly, seizing my organs, constricting my muscles, shortening my breath. I am stunned. Paralyzed. Unyielding, heart racing, my eyes struggle to make sense of the perfunctory words on my computer screen.

She is dead. Breast Cancer. Gone.

What happened? She was fine last I had heard.

The remnants of the email blur into small print –boilerplate logistical details, funeral, donations and the family she left behind. Two kids, a husband…an entire life left unlived.

I never met her. I didn’t know anything about her, other than she was a mother, and the wife of an acquaintance. He shared that she was healing and was doing well last time we spoke. When was that? May –a mere eight months ago. Could this happen to me? My mind flashes ahead eight months. March break with the kids, summer vacation, grade eight grad then bam it’s over, no thanksgiving, no Christmas. It’s too difficult to grasp. It’s overwhelming. My eyes fill with tears. I fight them stubbornly, an attempt to keep the floodgates of worry and fear sealed shut. I refuse to let doubt penetrate my body.

Did she do everything she was supposed to? Was [...] continue the story