How One Family Member’s Illness Can Affect The Entire Family

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, we continue the story of the how Tana’s father’s health issues turned her into a reluctant healer, which then paved the way for redemption. This section chronicles the impact a leukemia diagnosis had on the family. Although times were tough as ever, maintaining a balanced brain and sense of understanding kept things in perspective.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years, using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back to the Reluctant Healer. I love sharing this story, this very important part of our sort of relationship history and sort of one of the first relationships we tackled together, and it was very important.
Tana Amen: So one of the things I think that was important for me ... We're talking about my dad, but we're also talking about a new relationship starting between us, and there was some annoyance. I was annoyed when my dad was moving in with me, there was all this stuff going on with me and my dad. But, when you're talking about getting together with someone and starting a relationship and starting a life with them, it's also important to step back and see what that person is like.
And even though I was fairly annoyed with you for bringing him down here, it told me a lot about you and your view on family and that was actually really important. So I might have been annoyed about that specific situation, but I realized something, that you don't back down when family is in trouble. You don't back down when there's a challenge, and for me, as somebody who had a little girl, that was really important. So I realized, family was really important to you.
Sometimes those relationships were more critical for you to dig into and want to heal than they were for me because there were things that I had pushed, not just pushed out, but I was clear. They had been so toxic that I didn't want them in and you were like, "No, let's do this." It was a love/hate thing.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, and sometimes people are so toxic that you need to push them out. So I'm not, even though I've been accused of being Pollyanna-ish, although Pollyanna is my favorite movie.
Tana Amen: Yeah, he is, he is.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I know there's a reality that you become like the people you spend time with. But often, people eliminate people from their lives or ban people from their lives and nobody knows, well, it could be their brain.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And if you don't look, how would you ever know. Once you balance their brain, often, not always, but often their relationships are better. They have more empathy, more forethought, better judgment, better impulse, control. All of those things that going in to making us who we are.
And so, he teaches an all-day seminar at church, and we're sort of feeling good about ourselves that he is progressing, and we really like that. I think it's at that point, I begin to meet your sisters. That was yet another part to the story. We'll tell that-
Tana Amen: Another time.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... story another time.
Tana Amen: That's a whole another thing.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But, you begin to think about, how do all these brains interact with each other? No family therapist I know, outside of the ones here at Amen Clinics and a couple of my friends like Dr. Henslin, Earl Henslin, who's in Brea. I can tell they're in California. They just never think about the brain as it relates to relationships.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So now, in the beginning of our relationship, we actually began to put the brain in the center of it. Scanned you, scanned your dad, then I scanned your mom, and your uncle, who are working together. They both have terrible ADD. Balancing their ADD, they stopped fighting with each other. Your mom just recently sold her business. When you balance the brain, people can get along better. And then, a couple of years later, your dad actually gets sick with a medical illness.
Tana Amen: Yeah, so it's interesting. So he was doing so well, and like I said before, it didn't just all get better, right? We had to work at it. I mean, there was a lot of work that went into the relationship getting better, and so there were ups and downs and there were some weird things about ... You just don't blend your life with someone after 36 or 37 years and all of a sudden it's just all better. So we were working on a lot of stuff and letting a lot of stuff go, and he was doing so much better though physically.
His health was so much better, and all of a sudden, he was diagnosed with leukemia, a form of leukemia. It was pretty crazy. He had to start going through chemo, and so now he's sick again. But it wasn't Alzheimer's disease, right? I mean, it was something completely unrelated, completely different, and so he got pretty sick. Through that process, one thing I did notice through that process is it affected his brain again. So when he would not feel well, when he would go through chemo, when his blood count was low, his hemoglobin was low, stuff like that would actually ... He would slip back into some of his old behaviors.
Fortunately, it was actually you that pointed it out to me, I would so irritated and you're like, "Wait a second. He's not actually getting oxygen to his brain." So that would actually be helpful 'cause I could step back and go, "Oh, that's true." The nurse in me could put that together. The biological thing, I could actually deal with. The just sort of being a jerk thing, not so easy to deal with, right?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Although, they may be closely related.
Tana Amen: Well, that's what I mean. I could deal with that. 'Cause I remember being in the hospital and people getting ICU psychosis and people having reactions to medications, that I can deal with all day long. So when I would hear that, it was easy, it was easier.
So when he finally got this progressed, it was pretty bad and he couldn't live ... He actually, for a while, was living independently again, so that was pretty wild. He wanted to live-
Dr. Daniel Amen: Actually for a good long while.
Tana Amen: Yeah, for a couple of years he lived independently again, which was ... He wanted to, which was interesting. So, we had to move him back in with us and he was living in one of our bedrooms downstairs 'cause he couldn't climb stairs, and eventually, we had to have hospice come. It was so interesting 'cause I remember having such a hard time. I started to get physical manifestations and I didn't know why. I never get headaches, like ever. I was having these massive headaches and I felt sort of nauseous. I was not feeling well at all and I couldn't figure it out. I was getting these like very anxious ... Not mad at him, just anxious feelings when he would moan and like ... He was going through certain physical issues and I could not figure it out.
I gotta tell you, hospice nurses, god bless you. You guys are an amazing breed of people. 'Cause as a trauma nurse, I'm a hard charging, like "Let's do something." And so when I couldn't do something, I just sort of freaked out. And so, it was the hospice nurse that pulled aside and she goes ... I was like, "I don't feel well. I don't what's going on. I just can't ... " I was feeling really blah, like I was gonna throw up or pass out or something. Which is weird 'cause I'm used to seeing like literally blood and guts all day long, brain tissue and fractured skulls. She pulled me aside and I'm like, "This doesn't even make sense. I just feel so awful."
She pulled me aside, she said, "Yeah, it makes perfect sense." She said, "You're used to always doing something and now is a time when you need to not do something. Now is a time when you need to let him go with grace." I literally felt really sick for a second, and then I was like, "Oh my god, she'd right." That's just such a hard thing to grasp, letting someone go with grace and with dignity, and that's what hospice nurses do. It was such a weird thing to experience.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So, this man that you were disconnected from and held a lot of animosity toward, came back, had a better brain. You guys had a better relationship. You're able to heal one of the biggest hurts of anyone's life is their relationship with their father.
The day he died, he asked me to go to Taco Bell and get him an enchirito and I'm like, "No. Why am I gonna accelerate your death."
Tana Amen: It was so funny and am like ... Your book had just come out.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Change Your Brain, Change Your Body.
Tana Amen: Yeah, I'm like, "Oh my god, you're gonna have to go Cloak and Dagger." If I'm on my deathbed, give me what I want. We knew he was dying so ...
Dr. Daniel Amen: So I went and got him an enchirito and then he died.
Tana Amen: So, but I want to talk about that day in the next episode 'cause it was really an amazing day. It was actually a miraculous, beautiful day, which sounds really weird for the day that someone dies, but that day was.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But people who've been around people who've died, that doesn't sound weird at all.
Tana Amen: Yeah, I need to talk about it 'cause it was so wild.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Stay with us.
Tana Amen: If you are enjoying the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast, please don't forget to subscribe, so you'll always know when there's a new episode, and while you're at it, feel free to give us a review or five-star rating as that helps others find the podcast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: For more information, give us a call at 855-978-1363.