• Julie Hawkins is our featured Hero of Healing
  • Ask the Fitness Expert – What type of exercise can I do when I am in pain?
  • Recipe of the Month – My Nonnie’s Boiled Chicken and Broth

I have chronic pain throughout my body. I have exercised minimally in the past few years, and now have severe muscle atrophy in my arms and legs.

A couple of my pain specialists have told me that working out may help decrease my pain levels. I have begun walking ten minutes a day, but I hurt all the time and am unsure what forms of exercise I should be doing. Do you have any other suggestions as to what I should do on my “better days?”

—Frustrated in Georgia

Dear Frustrated,

I agree with your doctors. Doing some modified strength training exercises will make you stronger, which in turn will make it easier for you to do everyday tasks around the house. Even short amounts of exercise can increase endorphins and decrease pain levels.

A good start is three sets of ten modified squats, which are accomplished by getting up-and-down out of a chair. If the pain is too severe in your legs, a good arm exercise would be three sets of ten push-ups that you do either against a wall or on your knees on the floor. These simple exercises can build significant amounts of muscle if done consistently, but you must increase your sets and repetitions as the exercises become easier over time.

It is always hard to begin a new routine, and I commend you on taking this step in your recovery. Remember there will be good days and bad days, so do not get discouraged with your progress. I wish you the best.

—Rick Dyer, MS, CSCS, CPT (FIT, Los Altos, CA)

Motivational Song Lyrics

As Long As I Can Dream – ExposéThis song always lifted my spirits when I felt lost and alone. The meaning behind the lyrics resonated deeply with me during my times of struggle, and I hope it does the same for you.

When this world that I see
Is too hard to take
And too much for me
And everything's in blue,
When the rain's pouring down
And I can't find the sun,
It don't mean the sun can't be found
It always comes through

There's not a soul that's lost
That can't find its way
There's not a night that's long
That can't find the day
As long as I can dream,

There's a better world
Oh, there's a better world
I see it shining
And in my dreams, I see
There's a better world
Oh, there's a better world
As long as I can dream

In my heart, there's a place
Where there's always hope
And always a way
To make it through the night
And in my soul, I believe
If I just have faith,
Then I will be free
I'll be alright

My Thoughts

As I write my first column for Healing Times eNewsletter, butterflies flutter in my stomach. I am so excited to begin this new journey with each of you, and I hope by sharing information, we can all grow as individuals. This is our chance to unite as an empowered team, and recognize there is more than pain that bonds us together.

As a chronic pain survivor, I know that encouragement and support are essential to recovery. It is imperative for each of us to remember that despite our own obstacles and pain, dreams do come true. In order for us to stay optimistic while we search for answers, we must focus on self-betterment. For that reason, Healing Times will highlight inspiring stories, personal reflection, and healing tips. Besides sharing my own thoughts with you every month, there will be recommended recipes, song lyrics and movies, which I hope bring you comfort and laughter. Healing Times will also have columns by holistic health and fitness experts answering your questions regarding exercise, nutrition and the mind-body-spirit connection. More so, Healing Times will introduce our latest “Spotlighted” Pain Survivor and Courageous Caregiver.

Thank you for letting me into your lives. I am looking forward to forming new friendships; I know we can learn from each other how to hold onto hope and continue to believe in the unimaginable. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

Believing in Miracles,

The Importance of Gratitude

The months of November, December and January have always been my favorite time of the year. Beginning with an always-memorable Thanksgiving dinner and ending with the Quinlan family on New Years, every holiday I felt the same joy, contentment and love. Some of my fondest childhood memories, like decorating the Christmas tree with my family while listening to Frank Sinatra sing Christmas carols, occurred during this magical season. It was truly a time to be thankful.

As I grew older, I never lost my adoration for this special time of year. In fact, even when my pain and disability made it impossible for me to participate in our family tradition of decorating the tree, I would still lie on the couch smiling as ornaments were hung. It surprised me how the physical torture I endured could not dampen my spirits. I just felt alive, as if some universal peace existed inside me.

I must admit there were moments when I felt completely alone and depressed. But I always remembered that I had incredible friends and family supporting me. During those private times spent questioning the reasons for such suffering, I urge you to refocus your attention on the things you have to be grateful for. It could be as simple as the checker at the grocery store smiling at you, or hitting every green light on your way to an appointment. All I want is for you to notice the positive, happier side to life.

In 2002, I began my own gratitude journal where I recorded three things I was thankful for each day. While it was challenging to write anything, for the most part, I was able to find three highlights to my day. Whether it is family, friends, animals, a stranger, or even a television show (American Idol was a godsend!), we all can find something that brings us joy. My wish for all of you this New Year is to find your own list of things that bring you joy.

Nicoles Recipe of the Month

My Nonnie’s Boiled Chicken and Broth

This dish always makes me feel better. There is nothing more comforting than chicken soup, and my grandmother’s recipe is delicious. Bon appetit!


Chicken Fryer
4 stalks Celery—cut stalks in half
2 handfuls of peeled Baby Carrots (4 regular carrots cut in thirds)
White Onion—peeled and quartered
Parsley—handful chopped
Tomato Sauce—¼ cup
2 Garlic gloves—chopped
Sea Salt—1 ½ tsp
(Optional—1 tbsp Chicken Stock Base)


Wash and remove the fat from Chicken Fryer. Take off most of the skin and remove the liver. Place the fryer in a large pot and cover with water. Add Garlic, Sea-Salt, White Onion, Celery, Baby Carrots, parsley, and Tomato Sauce (Optional: Chicken Stock Base).

Bring to a boil, and then taste to see if broth needs more salt or chicken stock base. Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Stir before straining vegetables in a strainer over pot. Take chicken skin & bones off. Put chicken and vegetables in a large bowl and serve.

For broth: Let set overnight in refrigerator. Skim off fat, and then warm on stove. Add more salt if necessary.


facts on pain
Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.
-2006 National Institute of Health Statistic

Chronic pain is often defined as pain that lasts six months or longer.

More than 50 million Americans experience chronic pain that interferes with daily activities, according to the American Pain Foundation.

The American Pain Foundation describes pain as the fifth vital sign after blood pressure, pulse, respiration and temperature.

The American Academy of Pain Medicine states that the annual cost of chronic pain in the United States, including healthcare.

Helpful Links to Pain Resources

Just to make you Laugh

Bridget Jones’s Diary

Since it is the beginning of a new decade and a new year, I decided to recommend a film that humorously discusses New Years resolutions. No matter how upset or discouraged I may have been in regards to my health, Bridget Jones’s Diary always made me chuckle. While it would not take away my pain, watching this movie brightened my mood. In fact, sometimes it would be the highlight of my day. Enjoy!