9 Valuable Lessons Gained From Chronic Illness

Our advocate Lana shares nine valuable lessons that have shaped her life over the last six years.

9 Valuable Lessons Gained From Chronic Illness

Going into my sixth year living with a chronic illness, I consider myself experienced in meeting the challenges imposed by chronic illness. The term “chronic illness” doesn’t bother me and I no longer see my illnesses as a burden. Rather, I view them as a determinant of who I can become. Further, how I choose to cope determines the lessons I gain and how those lessons shape my very existence.

Here are nine valuable lessons that have shaped my life over the last six years.

Enjoy Life Even When It Hurts

There have been many occasions where I just didn’t feel motivated to follow through on plans with friends and family. But when I forced myself to get out and push past the pain, I was glad I got to enjoy that time and to make those memories. And yes, it is true that we should take care of ourselves — and there will be plenty of plans that do get cancelled — but we shouldn’t make canceling plans the norm. If you are going to be in pain, you might as well do the things you enjoy to help you forget. Trust me, your mind, body and soul will thank you.


Guest Post: The Importance of Keeping Active as you Age

Just as it is important to keep learning throughout our lifetime, it is important to stay in shape and stay mobile. Just as you spend your evenings reading or doing a crossword, one should remember the importance of walking or riding a bike. To focus on the latter, exercise can simple and easily maintained throughout each decade that passes. Because everyone reaches the age where they need assistance at some point or another, then it is important to maintain the traits of our youth that we can, mobility.

Just as all the systems in the body work together, it is important to exercise and help them function in unison. This doesn’t just help with staying regular but allowing your body to process the energy you get it. As you age, your metabolism slows which adds to weight gain, and discomfort. It is in this downward spiral that mood is affected, and overall happiness is compromised.

If you find yourself in this spiral, I recommend waking up every day and starting the exercise routines slowly. You don’t want to hurt yourself, as this will put you back where you were. Instead focus on doing the exercises correctly and building your small muscles fibers first. Let’s not forget cardiovascular health. You may spend up to fifteen minutes a day, seven days a week at first. But let’s not get discouraged, this is how to build proper endurance.

Make sure you’re getting some rest. There is nothing wrong with staying up with the grandkids, but make sure to get your rest, and wake up with good whole foods that can help give energy and start recovery. As one ages, you’ll find that muscle loss may have already taken effect. It’s important not to overestimate your strength if you aren’t in a regular exercise regimen. Also, by not keeping regular in your exercises it could set you up for a fall.

Let’s consider some exercise that could help with balance and prevent the option of falling. Go outside and start by taking a lovely walk through the park. Make sure to pack a lunch, bring a collapsible cane, and pack a lunch. Stay out and take it easy, find a place to sit and relax if you’re feeling winded. This is the best way to start. Take the next step when you go out again, and use your arms to complete the stride, when you’re ready. You’ll find that now you’re improving cardio and building leg strength.

If you can get some good momentum, you’ll find that your sleep will be improved, you’ll rest easier. You can also find a new self-confidence, and a brighter mood. Like we talked about before, the importance of keeping your brain working, well studies have found that exercise is a positive influence. Just remember that no one is going to look down on you. When you are out on the park enjoying some birds, path, and bikers passing by, you’ll really want to smile, this is where the real world is, and when you are able to spend time with those frisky grandkids, you’ll realize where the real love is.

This article was written by Cheryl Swansong, a long time caregiver with a passion for writing and a strong supporter of human rights. She has been working hard to bring awareness to the ways that a lot of senior citizens and disabled individuals are mistreated on a daily basis. You can read her most recent interview on the subject here:  http://justwalkers.com/how-the-disabled-and-elderly-are-treated-differently-experts-weigh-in

Nine Things Chronically Ill People Want Loved Ones to Know

There are many things a chronically ill person wants their loved ones to know but are hesitant to share.

Nine Things Chronically Ill People Want Loved Ones to Know

Chronic illnesses are debilitating and strike people of all ages and sexes. Loved ones are confused on how to offer help and support while chronically ill patients struggle with sharing feelings. There are many things a chronically ill person wants their loved ones to know but are hesitant to share.

Here are nine things chronically ill people want their loved ones to know:

1. Our Grief is Ongoing

Angie, age 17: “I wish my parents understood that my grief over my health is reoccurring. It is gone sometimes but it always returns.”

Before getting sick, you don’t know the ongoing struggles that force you to continually grieve. And there is a lot to grieve over. You are not as productive as you once were. You have lost friends, the ability to take part in your favorite activities and your independence. Grief comes in waves and sometimes, out of the blue. One minute, you are accepting the changes and challenges that chronic illness brings to your life and the next you are overcome with sadness or anger.


5 Ways to Manage Arthritis During the Summer Months

Arthritis can be be painful any time of the year — especially during the summer.

5 Ways to Manage Arthritis During the Summer Months

Many believe that arthritis symptoms tend to be more aggressive in the winter months but this isn’t necessarily true. Arthritis can be painful any time of the year. Summer weather can increase swelling and inflammation and the high temperatures can make symptoms even more unpleasant. Further, people spend more time outdoors as the weather warms and will overdo activities and tire themselves out. Travel is more common during the summer months and requires sitting for long periods, resulting in an increase in joint stiffness and a decrease in circulation.

Here are five ways to help you manage your arthritis symptoms in the summer months:

Stay Hydrated

If you are going to be outdoors in hot humid weather, it is important to drink plenty of liquids. Dehydration can lead to muscle cramps and even heat stroke. If you are taking anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen, it is even more important to stay hydrated because these medications constrict blood flow to the kidneys causing dehydration. Drink about six to eight glasses of water a day, more if you are exercising or planning to be outdoors for long periods.


How One Family Manages With the Chronic Illness of a Child

Chronic illnesses are most common in adults but they affect people of all ages — including children.

How One Family Manages With the Chronic Illness of a Child

Seven percent of American children today live with at least one chronic illness. That number is a significant increase from 1.8 percent in the 1960s, this according to theNational Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Raising a child with a chronic illness affects the entire family. Parents may feel guilt and anger while siblings may feel neglected. Depending on the illness, a sick child may experience symptoms of discomfort and pain. Moreover, treatments for the illness may be scary, painful and uncomfortable. Parents may also struggle with watching their child being sick and in distress. Further, illness strains finances and demands time, energy and resources.


Communicating Concern and Support for Loved Ones in Pain

How to maintain a successful relationships with family members and friends

Communicating Concern and Support for Loved Ones in Pain

The Institute of Medicine reports that 100 million Americans suffer from conditions that result in chronic pain. Chronic pain conditions are often difficult to diagnose and treat because each person’s pain is unique.

Communication becomes vital to achieving and maintaining successful relationships with family members and friends for patients living with pain. This isn’t always easy because, often times, patients struggle to find the necessary dialogue to describe pain and feelings while loved ones struggle with their reactions.


Communication, or the lack of it, stands out for many living with chronic illness and pain and for their loved ones. It is an issue that causes frustration for all parties and people with chronic illness and pain communicate differently than those who aren’t sick.

There is a reluctance to communicate physical and emotional symptoms. Further, chronically ill people often say they are feeling “well” or “okay” despite the fact they are hurting. Sometimes, there is no way to describe how someone is feeling and other times, the chronically ill person just wants to be left alone. These obstacles are challenging and result in the breakdown in communication.

Communicating with a Loved One in Pain

People who live with pain do best when loved ones express concern for their hurting and offer support that is genuinely needed. Here are five ways you can communicate concern and support.


Chronic Illness: Five Solutions So You Aren’t Overwhelmed

Don’t ignore your chronic illness

Chronic Illness: Five Solutions So You Aren’t Overwhelmed

I know first-hand how overwhelming life with chronic illness can be. It is a struggle just to get out of bed every morning. You live with the understanding that there are just some things you can no longer do. Too many look of us at the future with uncertainty and do not have enough people in our lives who understand our daily struggles.

For long time, I felt that living with chronic illness made surviving daily life a struggle. It was overwhelming to keep up with my housework, errands and job and to be there for my kids. But, with time, I have developed my own set of solutions to keep myself from getting overwhelmed and these have become a way of life for me.

Here are five solutions that have benefited me as I live with chronic illness and manage its effects on my busy and often hectic life.

Solution #1

Choose Not to Be Critical

Be kind and good to yourself and learn not be critical. Many of us experience an internal dialogue struggle and we don’t always realize that it’s in our power to make that dialogue positive. Think about it this way: We would never be critical of the people we love and we don’t even talk that way to strangers. Learning not judge yourself harshly, encouraging yourself and acknowledging your achievements are amazing gifts. Offer yourself compassion and kindness to cope with the emotional effects of chronic illness. I understand that we are all busy people with jobs and families but loving you and offering compassion to oneself doesn’t require you to do anything physical or difficult.


Autoimmune Disease, Arthritis and Women

Why are women targeted more than men?

Autoimmune diseases that cause arthritis symptoms tend to affect more women than men. This understanding has been established for well over a hundred years, but only in recent years has research paid specific focus to possible reasoning.

Autoimmune Disease and Arthritis

There are 50 million Americans that live with an autoimmune disease and more than 75 percent are women. The term “autoimmune disease” refers to a group of different illnesses characterized by a problem called “autoimmunity,” wherein the body’s immune system attacks the cells it is supposed to protect.

Many autoimmune diseases are characterized by inflammation of the joints in addition to inflammation of connective and soft tissues and even organs. The most common autoimmune diseases that cause arthritis symptoms include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, Still’s Disease, juvenile arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, ankylosing spondylitis, primary sjogren’s syndrome and mixed connective tissue disease.

Statistics for Women

Women are three times more likely than men to be diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, this according to estimates reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. Moreover, autoimmune disease has been cited as one of the top causes of death among U.S. women under the age of 65 and is also the fourth largest reason for disability among American women.

Possible Explanations

Why exactly are women more prone to arthritis producing autoimmune disease than are men? Here are some possible explanations.

Hormones. Some researchers believe that because women produce estrogen, it puts them at a greater risk for autoimmune disease. In fact, research has shown that high estrogen levels force women’s bodies’ overreact much like the response of autoimmunity.

Environment. Researchers pay a lot more attention to the role played by environmental factors as an underlying trigger to autoimmune disease. It is very likely that exposure to external toxins, such as environmental pollutants and medication, can trigger an autoimmune response. And the role that men and women play at home and in the workplace can help determine who is exposed to specific toxins. Researchers are also looking at products that women use in greater frequency, such as hair dyes and makeup, to determine if these pay a role.

Genes. Genetic differences between men and women are a big consideration in explaining why women are more likely to develop autoimmune diseases. Most research has pointed to the fact that women and men have completely different cells throughout their entire bodies despite having similar tissues. A revealing study out of the University of Manchester UK hinted that X chromosomes play a part in the development of autoimmune disease and because women have two of these, their risk becomes greater.

Stress. Stress affects the body’s ability manage immune functions. In fact, autoimmunity can result when stress alters the effectiveness of cortisol to regulate inflammation. The belief is that because women process stress differently than men, the reduced levels of cortisol encourage inflammation rather than inhibit it.

Evidence is Only Circumstantial

While researchers do identify hormones, environmental factors, genes and stress as potential contributing factors to the higher incidence of autoimmune disease in women, these triggers are at best circumstantial. What do know is that while autoimmune disease is more common in women, men are often affected much more severely. Interestingly, research in animal studies have shown the same bias. To sum up, while hormones, environmental factors, genes, and stress may play a role in a women’s autoimmune response, they have very little to do with how strong that response will be.

9 Ways To Prevent Arthritis Flare-Ups

It’s difficult to predict when a flare-up may occur, but you may be able to reduce them if you know your triggers.

​9 Ways To Prevent Arthritis Flare-Ups

One of the most difficult things I have come across as I manage my arthritis symptoms is predicting the possibility of flare-ups. While I can’t always keep them from occurring, I have learned how to reduce my chances of having a flare-up.

Here are nine things I do to help me to keep arthritis flare-ups at bay.

Plan Ahead

I often think ahead because I know that my daily habits help me to manage my life with arthritis. I plan ahead in everything I do from shopping to being prepared for an upcoming event because I never know when fatigue and pain will take over.


Review of In Your Hands by Dr. Larry Berkelhammer


I have struggled to cope with chronic illness and I have often felt like healthy living was out of my control as many of you have. From the moment I picked up In Your Hands by Dr. Larry Berkelhammer, I realized that I did not need to feel a loss of control and or that there weren’t enough answers.

There was a time when Dr. Berkelhammer had usual symptoms that no one could explain so he knows firsthand what feels like to be sick and not know why.  Like many of you, he had to continue on with his life despite not feeling well and not having a diagnosis.  In Your Hands narrates the doctor’s journey towards finding answers and trying to maintain a positive attitude so as to feel better physically better along the way.  Eventually Dr. Berkelhammer got a diagnosis but, as reminiscent of this book, that was only a small part in his journey towards healthy wellbeing despite illness.

Dr. Berkelhammer is here to inspire us in kind and nurturing way. He knows we try hard to manage our illnesses and we do so day in and day out so he wants us to make the best use of our coping skills. He also knows that all of this has an effect on self-esteem and can lead to depression and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. It is hard knowing that there are no cures for our conditions and that we cannot predict our lives day to day.

But Dr. Berkelhammer shows us a different way of living. He does this by gently nudging and encouraging you to think about all the ways in which you can live your life fully.  He uses proven methods to teach you how to take charge of your health and emotions so that you become a master at your own health and wellbeing.

About Larry Berkelhammer, PhD

Larry Berkelhammer, PhD, is an author, educator, speaker, and talk show host whose work focuses on the mind’s impact on health. You can find out more about him at his website.


Larry Berkelhammer, PhD


You can purchase In Your Hands through the following online retailers.


Barnes & Noble

I did not receive compensation for this review.  I did, however, receive a free copy of the book.