Office Visits – #AtoZChallenge2018


O is for Office Visits – #AtoZ Challenge 2018


Today’s topic for the letter O shall be office visits. This will include such things as how to adequately prepare for, participate in, and get the most out of the limited face time you may get with your physician or other advanced practitioners. How hard can this be, you may be thinking. Well, in reality, it isn’t hard per se but many people have never learned how to do it effectively.

In today’s healthcare system where providers are expected to see more and more patients in an ever decreasing amount of time, this is an essential part of you being your own best advocate. Even if you are among the lucky ones to have adequate time with your provider, it is still your responsibility to make the most effective use of that time. By following a few simple suggestions you can achieve this while increasing the efficiency of your interactions with your provider and by extension the level of your own care.

I made a form a few years ago that I will share here for you to print out and use as a template for your office visits. It may look complicated at first, and as with anything new, it may take some time to get used to. However, I can tell you from speaking with many physicians and advanced practitioners that it makes their side of the appointment much easier and improves the quality of the time they get to spend with the patient addressing other needs or concerns.

Whether you use my form or not is entirely up to you. You can handwrite the same information, legibly of course, on a sheet of paper if you so desire. Or you can simply print mine and fill it in, or if you have access to PDF editing software you can even complete it on your computer prior to printing.

There are some simple things to include in a list when you are preparing for your office visit, some of which can be started as early as when you finish your previous office visit. For example, let’s say you just saw your doctor and as you’re getting in your car you remember something that you wanted to ask but slipped your mind. You know you will be returning in a month to review lab work. Start a new sheet for that office visit and go ahead and start adding things to it now so you don’t forget a month from now. You could add the item that slipped your mind. You could even add an item to review the lab work lest you forget.

Looking at the provided form you on the very top left, in the header, you put your name. On the right side of the same header, you put the date of your appointment. Immediately below that, you will see in big, bold, red letters a spot for medication allergies. If you are allergic to any medications or have severe life-threatening allergies to something you would put that here. For example, if you are allergic to latex, or penicillin that information should go here for the provider to plainly see.

Then following down the left side of the page you then list your medications one at a time starting with the medication name in the first column. Let’s say, for example, that you take the medication Lisinopril 10mg once daily every morning for hypertension (high blood pressure). The name Lisinopril would go in the name field. Then the strength of the medication in the next column typically indicated on your pill bottle as mg or mgs, which refers to milligrams and in the above example would be 10mg. The next column is frequency, which refers to how often you take it. You could put once daily here and you would be correct.

However, some medications are more effective or even better tolerated at different times of the day. So let’s be as specific as we can to give our physician the most complete information to work with so you could write once daily at breakfast, or once daily in a.m. to show when you take it. This detail can be especially useful with some medications that may cause drowsiness as a side effect so it is important to be as specific as you can. Moving on to the next two columns, these are simply checkboxes in which first you indicate if you take the medication daily, or on strictly an as needed basis (PRN). In some more unusual circumstances you may need to check both these boxes for the same medication, but typically it will be one or the other.

An important note in completing the medication side of the form is that it is highly recommended that you include everything you take. By this, I mean that you should include vitamins, supplements, over the counter medications etcetera as this will give your doctor a complete picture of your medications and any potential interactions with anything you are either already taking that could be hazardous to you, or something new that they may wish to prescribe.

While this particular item does not apply to me personally, I would suggest that you also consider listing medical marijuana if you have been legally prescribed to take it and it is legal where you live. I am neither a pharmacist nor a physiologist so I can’t even begin to speculate as to how different forms of medical marijuana may alter or interact with other medications.

Lastly on the medication side of the form I also like to list any treatments I may currently be on that would need to be continued should I be admitted to the hospital so that in the chaos of admission paperwork things to not get overlooked. For example, I use BiPap to treat my obstructive sleep apnea and cannot sleep without it. Therefore I list it under the medication side of the list with the appropriate information so that the admitting physician can see that an order will need to be written to include that therapy while in the hospital as well.

The right side of the list is rather self-explanatory, but starting on the top right you would list any medications you need refills on either now or before your next appointment. A little bit of planning goes a long way here. Check your bottles before your appointment and if you know that you see this doctor every three months but you still have one refill left, some simple math will tell you that you will need more before you see the doctor again. List that medication here so there is no interruption in your medication regimen, and you don’t have to play phone tag with the office to get a refill when you do need it.

Below the section for refills is a section where you can list any items that need to be addressed during this visit. Some things to think about when completing this section include such things as have you had any labs or imaging studies since your last appointment that you wish to get the results on? Add this to your list of topics to address. If they order follow up tests you can even start the list for your next appointment now, during or after the current appointment, so that neither of you forgets to review the results next time.

Has your condition changed whether improved or worsened since your last visit? If so detail how so that you and your doctor can discuss the changes and modify treatment as necessary. Are you experiencing a new problem? List it here so that you don’t forget to bring it up. Anything that you feel either the doctor should address or that you wish to inquire about should be put here, no matter how small or inconsequential you feel the item may be. Sometimes the little details make all the difference.

Lastly, in this section, you should also include a brief synopsis of any visits you may have had with other practitioners since your last appointment. In this manner, you can be sure to address things that other professionals may have done since you last saw this particular doctor to ensure that nothing gets overlooked or interacts with what another provider has done.

I’ve had numerous occasions where one doctor would order a medication and when I next saw another specialist they informed me that while that medication may normally be appropriate for most people it was not appropriate for me because it would interact with one of my other medications or exacerbate any underlying condition that the other physician may not have thought of particularly if it was outside their area of expertise.

If completing the form on your computer I suggest you print two copies, but if you are completing it by hand simply ask the office staff to make a copy for you once you get there. Then when the medical assistant wants to review your medications, you can hand them the list. When they are done with it they can leave it in the exam room with you on the computer, for the doctor to see.

Once the doctor comes in you can simply ask him to follow along. Refills needed are clearly indicated for them to complete in the computer as you start to address your list of items to discuss. Many physicians have told me that it has made our brief encounters much more organized and efficient as we can easily address the items in short order as opposed to having to sit there trying to remember what it was you wanted to ask the doctor about. The purpose of the copy is so that you can both follow along and on the bottom of your copy you can take notes as to answers to your questions, new treatments ordered, medication changes, etcetera.

When you get home from your appointment is a perfect time to go ahead and start a new form for the next appointment and add anything that you may have forgotten to include on this visit’s form, or that you and your doctor have agreed needs to be revisited at a later time. By doing this you can make your visits much more productive as well as get the answers and information you need to be a more productive member of your own healthcare team.

Do you have suggestions for what should be added to this form? Do you have another way of doing it that works for you? Let us know in the comments as we are working on various adaptations of this form for the future to suit various situations. We’d love to hear from you!

PS – You can find the form by clicking on the link here: Blank MedList from Tupeak Hope.

N is for Nuance – AtoZChallenge2018

N is for Nuance – #AtoZChallenge

For the letter N in today’s post, the topic is going to be nuances and how they can appear where you least expect them. According to Merriam-Webster, nuance is defined “as a subtle distinction or variation” and it goes on to explain that it can also refer to a “sensibility to, awareness of, or ability to express delicate shadings (as of meaning, feeling, or value)”.

When you are ill you and your provider may need to have some very serious discussions and this can apply to a one-time relatively minor illness as well as to someone who is chronically ill who may have an entire team of specialists or even some sub-specialists.Even if you have what may seem a simple bacterial infection that would likely be treated very well with an antibiotic you and your provider should be having a discussion about the potential side effects or interactions of the medication on either your body or any other medications you may be on. While this may seem that it should be commonplace, there are still plenty of people who are content to simply have the doctor tell them what to do and they do it.

The time for patients to sit idly by and simply follow directions is long gone. In medicine today it is absolutely imperative that proper communication takes place. This is especially true for those who may be chronically ill with multiple illnesses or those who see multiple providers in order to ensure continuity of care and the best possible outcomes. Nuances occur every day in our lives, both in our speech and in terms of how our bodies may react to treatment regimens.

If we simply follow directions and don’t communicate well it could be easy for a practitioner to potentially miss a symptom that may important that you had no clue was important but have noticed for quite some time though you simply dismissed it as inconsequential. I’ve both seen and heard of patients dismissing symptoms as “just getting older” when in fact they were indicative of other underlying problems or conditions.

A well-trained provider should know the proper questions to ask to elicit the proper responses during an examination or a patient history. However, it would be unfair of patients to put this burden strictly on the practitioners. Physicians are being expected to accomplish more items, be more accurate in their patient-centered activities, and to do so in less and less time than ever before.

As a responsible partner in your own healthcare team, the burden not only falls on you to take a more active role in your healthcare, but this is a challenge you should be eager to undertake as it leads to better overall care for you, the patient. By participating in your care directly and doing even a little bit of efficient preparation you can ensure that you receive more accurate diagnoses and treatments, in a shorter time frame as you will know the basics of what needs to be discussed.

Each and every patient should prepare a list prior to an appointment, which can be as simple or as elaborate as you so desire. A list of items scribbled (legibly) on a piece of notebook paper is sufficient. I recommend starting with your name at the top, followed immediately by any allergies to medications as a reminder for the doctor. Below that you can list whatever prescriptions you may need refills on. Then you can individually list items that need to be addressed or questions that you may have. In this area, you should also include any symptoms you may be feeling despite whether you think they are pertinent or not.

You aren’t expected to be able to discern what is or is not diagnostically pertinent. However, if you don’t mention it then the physician cannot evaluate the information in its entirety to even attempt to make a proper diagnosis, nor should they be expected to treat you appropriately with less than complete information. While some topics may be sensitive or difficult to talk about, you can’t be shy. You have to have the ability to speak up and directly address something for the provider to ascertain its importance in the diagnostic and therapeutic decisions regarding your care.

In a similar vein when someone in the healthcare field asks you how you are doing, you are doing yourself a general disservice if you downplay how much pain you are in, how bad a symptom is, or how it may be otherwise affecting you and your immediate family. Subtle hints may often be missed and if you’re not explicit and honest you cannot expect your provider to see through the mask you put on to appear strong and capable of handling a situation when, in fact, you may feel as if the matter is overwhelming and that you can’t even keep your head above water.

If I were to sum up the point of this I would say take control of your own healthcare, do your proper research, and prepare to be an active member of your own personal healthcare team while practicing open, honest, and effective communication. You must also expect these traits from your providers and you can start things off quite well by exhibiting these things yourself and leading by example. Don’t rely on nuance or jargon to convey your meaning. Speak in clear and concise terms to convey your meaning.

Do you have a story to share? How do you participate in your own healthcare?

M is for Money (and Mindfulness) – #AtoZChallenge2018


M is for Money (and Mindfulness) – #AtoZ Challenge 2018


There are two separate for the letter M today for I couldn’t decide between the two. First, we are going to address money and it’s relevance in health matters. Secondly, we are going to address mindfulness as a way of coping with your life regardless of whether you are a patient or a caregiver.

They say that money can’t buy happiness and to many, that is a trite, pointless and inaccurate statement. At times it may seem insensitive or even judgmental when money judgments are made about patients by providers. I’ve had many providers look at me and make statements about my lack of ability to afford very expensive medications without prescription insurance.

Some prescription medications are quite expensive regardless of their availability as generics. Inhalers are typically several hundred dollars per month and that estimate is being conservative. I once had a medication ordered that was 400 dollars per month. When I inquired about the generic version of the medication the pharmacist informed me that the generic was actually 600 dollars per month. I have yet to be able to figure out how this made any sense whatsoever given that generics typically are cheaper than the original brand specific medication.

The point is that when a provider tells a patient that they simply aren’t making enough of an effort to properly acquire and use the medications provided it can result in the patient feeling insulted. Worse yet providers often document that a patient is being non-compliant with their medication regimen. I offer an alternative explanation that is quite succinct. Being poor does not mean you are non-compliant. Actually having the medication or the means with which to get it and making a choice not to do so makes you non-compliant.

Further, when a provider labels a patient as non-compliant the ramifications of such a statement are great. They can range from the patient feeling as if they have done something wrong, or otherwise failed to take proper care of themselves, which can lead to a potentially dangerous downward spiraling emotional state for the patient to an outright refusal of the provider to continue treating the patient for not doing what had been ordered. This can result in the patient feeling as if it were a punitive approach and therefore obviously should be avoided unless it was meant to be.

Switching topics slightly let’s explore mindfulness. By the provider practicing mindfulness, they can avoid treating the patient in such a punitive manner, instead of discussing potential alternatives that may be more within the patient’s available means. Doing this reinforces the concept of a team-based approach to medical care that includes both provider and patient as equal members of the team.

The patient can practice mindfulness in a totally different manner as a tool to help manage pain, stress, physical, or emotional trauma. By doing so the patient may be able to successfully manage such things as severe anxiety without the regular intervention of frequent anti-anxiety medications unless the symptoms being experienced are unusually severe. This can apply to pain management as well. This is not to say that medications are neither necessary nor appropriate at times. The point is that by learning techniques of mindfulness one can use these techniques as an adjunct whether in place of or in conjunction with appropriate prescription medications.

Providers and patients alike should learn to practice even one of the simplest forms of mindfulness by attempting to understand the other person’s point of view or position. By doing so we may be more able to effectively communicate with each other and accomplish whatever goals we are trying to reach.

Do you have a story to share? Please share with us in the comments below. We’d love to hear your point of view.


Life Isn’t Over – #AtoZChallenge2018


Life Isn’t Over – #AtoZ Challenge 2018


Today’s topic is one that is very important. You may have received what you feel is a devastating diagnosis and that your life is over. While it may, in fact, be a devastating diagnosis let me assure you that your life isn’t over whether metaphorically or literally speaking. This is even true in the very sad event that you’ve been given a terminal diagnosis your life is not, in fact over until you cease living. While that may sound harsh, it’s true. As the old saying goes “it isn’t over until the fat lady sings” and the same can be said about life.

Now that we’ve established that basic rule of life, let’s take a look at the more metaphorical aspect of this discussion. Let’s say you’ve suffered a horrific injury that has left you permanently disfigured, injured or otherwise less than feeling like a whole person. While there is absolutely no doubt that your life may, and probably will, change dramatically rest assured that there is still plenty of life left to live.

Breaking it down in very simple terms due to the condensed aspect of this post let’s take a look at some relatively simple truths. First and foremost you’re not dead, until your dead as we established above. Secondly, while mired in the precarious emotional quicksand and trying to absorb what has just happened to you it is imperative to realize that while life may never again be what it had been up until that point, this does not mean it is over.

Certainly, that particular portion of your life will change and may change so dramatically that it very well could feel as if a part of you has, in fact, ceased to exist, it is all in how you look at it. Yes, the situation may be horrible and you likely may not be able to do things you once could. But there is more to you as a person than just what you may be able to do physically despite whether that is in terms of recreation or occupation.

Does your situation make you any less of a human being or more specifically who you have been up to the moments before the diagnosis? I offer that it has not, and cannot change the core of who you are or have been. If you are not careful a major medical stressor such as this could easily change how you see and react to life maybe even making others think you are a cold, unhappy, or maybe even mean and nasty person.

The fact is you are still the same person. The thing that changes is our attitude based on how we choose to deal with the situation with which we are suddenly faced. Some of this can be based on how you’ve faced challenges previously in your life. Those who tend to shy away from change in their lives previously, for whatever reason, may have a harder time, which is totally understandable. If you’re the type of person that welcomes a challenge and the opportunity to ‘prove’ yourself, then you may not be quite as affected by this sudden challenge that’s been laid before you.

No matter which type of person you were prior there are a wide variety of various resources available to help you from general mental and medical health practitioners all the way to specialized support groups. With the explosion of social media, you could certainly seek help in a myriad of online groups that focus on your particular situation.

Rest assured that you may be closing the door on the ‘old you’ that there is a new and improved version of you just waiting to make its appearance if you so desire. The choice when extremely oversimplified comes down to whether you have the desire to fight for that positive change or simply permit the negative circumstances to determine your fate without any attempt on intervention by you.

Maybe you’ve been told you will never walk again for whatever reason. Does this end your life? No, it does not. Admittedly it is going to be an enormous shift in what you’ve been used to and how you will physically be able to approach life from that point forward. However, despite your sudden infirmity you can still prevail and live a happy, otherwise healthy, and productive life.

Sure, you may have to alter your ideas of what productive means to you personally. Maybe you previously were an extremely active person and your job is typically geared to ‘normal’ people in the aspect of not being usually thought of as something a person in a wheelchair could do. Does that mean you can’t forge a new path? Absolutely not. It just means you may have to redefine your path and what your current goals and what your preferred result will be.

During all of this, it is very critical to set yourself realistic goals, and not set yourself up for what could seem like a failure. Using the above example of no longer being able to use your legs let’s say you set your goal going forward as learning to walk again to return to your previous state. While admirable that you wish to prove medical science wrong (which does occasionally happen) it may not be the most realistic or attainable goal and if you, in fact, are unable to achieve it you will likely feel as if you’ve failed or let yourself, and possibly your friends and family, down.

In reality, you simply failed to properly plan based on the facts presented to you in your particular situation. To use another example if you are diagnosed with a mental health issue that leaves you moody and seemingly chronically depressed it may not be a good choice to pursue a career which will leave you feeling sorrow at work such as in a hospice or an animal shelter that sadly has to euthanize animals frequently.

You CAN do nearly anything that you reasonably set your mind to, including learning new skills with which to cope or work despite your limitations. The choice is entirely yours as to how to best make this happen and to avail yourself of the multitude of available resources that may be available to you. Depending on your situation there are even organizations that may help you at no cost to you. Returning to the example of your legs being paralyzed we discussed above, such organizations could include free help for job retraining, accessibility aids, or even vehicle modifications to permit you to return to work.

In short, don’t let ANY circumstances in life dictate what you can do or your outlook on how you will approach life going forward. You can set new goals, learn a new job skill, and learn to adapt to nearly anything in life given the right mental attitude, and of course the blood, sweat, and tears of your own sweat equity that you put into the effort. Set attainable goals, and let’s do this!

Have you or someone you know been through anything that drastically altered life as you knew it? How did you cope? What did you do to decide to go on with life and create a “new you”? Feel free to share your story with us below in the comments. We’d love to hear your story.

Keeping Hope Alive – #AtoZChallenge2018


K is for Keeping Hope Alive – #AtoZChallenge 2018


Today’s discussion will focus on hope and how to keep reasonable expectations of it to preserve both your physical and emotional health in regards to living life with chronic illness.

Merriam Webster defines hope in the following ways:

  • Intransitive verb
    • To cherish a desire with anticipation; to want something to happen or be true
  • Transitive verb
    • To desire with the expectation of obtainment or fulfillment
    • To expect with confidence.

There are days that nearly everyone may feel hopeless at one point or another. We are all human and we all have days where it seems as if nothing is ever going to get better, whether referring to a job, financial situation, health, or nearly any topic you could pick that directly impacts your life and happiness. The trick is not to let those days take root to grow into a larger feeling of hopelessness which can easily happen if we do not properly address the topic of hope and ultimately if you lose hope you can fall down the very deep well of despair from which it can seem impossible to climb back out of.

Take notice that in the opening line of this post I stated about reasonable expectations. This aspect of keeping hope in your personal journey or situation is key. If, for example, you have lost a limb due to an injury it would be unreasonable to maintain hope that things will go back to the way they were before the devastating injury. In contrast it would be extremely beneficial for you mentally and physically to keep hope that despite that loss life will go on, you will get the appropriate prosthetic device, and continue to live a long and productive life despite that injury.

If you suffer from a chemical imbalance within that results in some sort of mental illness it would be impractical to expect that things will simply get better on their own with no attempt at proper treatment while not acknowledging the challenges that are in front of you in hopes that they simply go away. Conversely if you are depressed due to a job situation that no longer seems a good fit for you for whatever reason, then it would be reasonable and expected to have hope that changing jobs or employers may very well address your situation and therefore improve your quality of life and happiness.

With chronic health issues it is quite easy to get lost in the quicksand of symptoms and the many impacts your diagnosis may have on your life. It is equally easy for some to begin to feel hopeless and just accept that their life is going to be horrible and there is nothing you can do about it. However I beg to point out that the only thing in life that it is unreasonable to not expect will happen is death. Inevitably death will find us all and there isn’t much we can do about it, or is there?

I offer that it is all in how you look at things. You could be the pessimist who says to yourself well my life sucks, and even if I try to make it better I’m going to die, so why bother. Or you can be the optimist and decide that despite the challenges in your path and the inevitable outcome of death, you plan to do everything within your power to make the absolute best of the time you have. I choose to be the latter for the very simple reason that I am too stupid (or stubborn maybe) to quit, lay down, and die. It just isn’t in my nature.

Are there times when things have briefly felt hopeless? Sure there are, for as I stated earlier we all have bad or challenging times. It is precisely what you do in those times will define how you as a person decide to cope with life and the challenges presented to you.

Let’s be realistic for a moment. It is human nature to want to be happy, and enjoy life as opposed to being miserable and just existing until you cease to exist. I pose it is worth the sometimes considerable effort to maintain reasonable hope that things will improve and enjoy life to the best of your ability for as long as you possibly can.

I could write volumes about specific examples and still couldn’t cover all possibilities or scenarios that could present themselves. Take a moment to apply this thinking to your life. Is there something in your life, be it related to physical health or not, that you could change to make things better for yourself? On the physical side of things maybe you are no longer able to go to the gym like you used to due to a medical issue, yet you could set a goal to walk a minimum distance each day to still provide your body with some exercise and your mind with a break from staring at the walls inside your home or office.

Take a few minutes each day to practice how to frame things in amore positive light. Sure, this takes more energy than just accepting things as they are, but isn’t your happiness worth it?

Our logo and name are designed in part around the concept that in life there will be peaks and valleys. Should you find yourself in the valley between the two mountain peaks you must keep hope that you will make it to the peak of the next mountain. Without hope there is no fight, and without life you can simply wither away both literally and figuratively.

Tell us your thoughts on hope as it pertains to your life. Do you know someone who persisted to strive for a better life despite the chronic, lifelong, and at times totally debilitating illness they were faced with? Some would call these people an inspiration which can be true as well, but they often simply kept hope. They refused to give up hope and remain stagnant in their situation.

Judgments – #AtoZChallenge 2018


J is for Judgments – #AtoZ Challenge 2018


Judgments occur in many, if not most, aspects of our lives. They can seem trivial and meaningless, but the effects can seem to last an eternity whether you are the person making the judgment, or the one about whom a judgment is being made. Before you get all defensive about the fact that you don’t feel you make judgments of others that’s great if you’ve never done it, but I would tend to believe all of us can be guilty of making a rash or snap judgment of someone else at least once in our lives.

As a relatively simple example let’s say you are at the local shopping center slowly driving through the parking lot while searching for a parking space. As you start down the next aisle in the lot something catches your attention out of the corner of your eye. As you stop to let another driver back out of their parking spot you look over to try to determine what caught your eye.

You notice a young adult getting out of a car that they just parked in a handicap spot. They appear to be walking without obvious difficulty, without any assistance, despite the handicap parking placard or license pate on the vehicle. You instantly think to yourself how wrong it is to misuse parking reserved for those who really need it. You even begin to get a little irritated at the fact that they seemed to walk into the store without a care in the world.

What you do next is what is important. See, I believe it is human nature to make some sort of judgment about others without having all the information, whether a conscious choice to do so or not. However the difference comes in with what you may choose to do next. If you get out and confront the person in a rage then those actions are not normal, nor are they accepted.

However, if you stop and think to yourself that there may be circumstances of which you are not aware, and quite frankly are none of your business unless you are a member of law enforcement, then you are on the right path. We need to give others the benefit of the doubt instead of snapping to a judgment without all the facts.

Now for the second part of the scenario, one reason this person could have parked in the specially reserved handicap parking spot is that they have a heart condition that is easily exacerbated by any exertion, of which there are many such heart conditions. Another plausible explanation is that they just had a double lung transplant and still get winded at even the light exertion of walking to the pharmacy located inside the store.

Does this sound too far-fetched to be true? Trust me when I tell you it is not. I’m personally aware of people to whom both these examples could apply. I’m guilty of making the initial judgment purely based on appearance of the situation as well, but having been the target of such judgments I also have taught myself to stop and think before going past that initial thought of a judgment.

I’ve actually had the local police department awaiting me when I returned to my vehicle because someone had called stating I was parked illegally and not entitled to use the handicapped parking space despite the placard prominently displayed from my mirror as required by law. The person who called the police made a snap judgment not only without having all the facts, but without ever having seen me. They made the judgment purely based on the vehicle I was driving, which looked very similar to an emergency vehicle due to my position with the fire department at the time.

However, as the police found out when I emerged from the store, I was on crutches and totally unable to bear weight on one leg due to a recent injury, let alone a myriad of other reasons that entitled me to legally avail myself of the privilege of such parking. Needless to say the police did not have an issue with me, but were none to happy that someone had called in such an obviously frivolous complaint.

Mind you this is just one way in which we as human beings judge each other, and probably one of the least hurtful ways in which we could do so. People make judgments of others based on any number of factors that could include race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or even personal convictions.

As a society we need to take just a moment and at least try to consider what other points of view or factors could come into play in any given situation before me permit ourselves to make snap judgments. Sure, it’s possible that a snap judgment may even be an accurate one, but the accuracy of the judgment doesn’t make it right that we make the judgment in the first place.

Have you ever found yourself on either end of a judgment? Tell us your experiences or thoughts on the matter.

Individuality – #AtoZChallenge2018

I is for Individuality – #AtoZChallenge 2018


Most illnesses vary from person to person based on a large variety of factors including age, general overall health, type of illness, and even gender. Chronic illnesses act no differently and can often vary immensely between similar people with the same diagnosis, which makes sense as we are all individuals and while yes we are all human beings we are al vastly different from each other despite the biology and biologic processes being generally similar.

To try to put this into super simple perspective look let’s take a look at plants. Vegetable plants of the same type and species, for example, will typically produce a product that appears to be very similar to one another, but the end result can often be different sizes, shapes, and even color.

Human beings are no different. While our body and its systems may operate in the same general context, there are always going to be some variations in how our body may react to certain stimuli, injury, or illness. Have you ever broken a bone or experienced an injury and known somebody else that went through a similar type of injury but maybe took longer to heal? This is because our bodies react differently as well as the fact that no two injuries or illnesses are exactly alike. Have you ever had the flu and known somebody else who had it more or less severe than you did? While it may very well have been the same exact flu virus that caused the illness there are, as I said, differences.

Chronic illnesses are no different whether that chronic illness is mental, emotional, or physical. This is true regardless of the body system involved. As a result, we must be careful as patients to recognize our individuality and not put ourselves down for not responding as quickly as someone else may have, or possibly as quickly as medical science and your physician may have expected. Further our physicians and other caregivers, be they professional or family members, must be careful to recognize this same fact and not doubt or judge us for how our body perceives whatever insult it has undergone.

Spinal cord injuries are a perfect example of a more drastic nature, but one that baffles many in the medical field including specialists in the field. You can have two patients with the exact same level (in the spine) and type of injury, who have undergone the exact same treatment, maybe even surgery, to repair the injury. Yet their outcomes may and often will be vastly different.

Some people have relatively minor injuries with permanent deficits and even paralysis as a constant reminder of their injury. Yet others in the same circumstance may recover fully or have little in the way of long-lasting negative results. This difference can lead to self-doubt, doubt on the part of family, friends, and even medical providers so it is imperative that we remember that we are each individuals.

Further, it is also extremely important to set realistic goals for yourself, your recovery, and your life after a diagnosis as it is impossible to accurately predict precisely how much that diagnosis may impact your life and those around you. In the recovery process, it is a good idea to explore alternative things to occupy your mind, time, and stimulate your brain despite the medical challenges.

It doesn’t have to be anything major, but personalize the choice to you, your likes, dislikes, and things that you have an actual interest in. While it is good to pick something you know interests you don’t be afraid to explore new paths or avenues of personal enjoyment or fulfillment. As human beings, we tend to stick with things in which we have some sort of an interest and discontinue things we don’t retain an interest in.

It’s okay to explore new paths, but be easy on yourself if you find a few months or years down the road that you are no longer interested in that activity. As individuals, our tastes and preferences change throughout our lives, which is perfectly normal and expected. This is one reason why it is best to find more than one activity that you may enjoy and be able to participate in as that gives you options. Don’t limit yourself to just one thing.

Think of activities as clothing. We don’t wear the same clothes all day every day. We have a variety of clothes in our closet from which we can choose what we want to wear based on weather, mood, activity and the like. Keep your activity toolbox full of various things you enjoy whether it be reading a book, writing a book, gardening, or whatever suits you personally. Open your mind to new experiences and it will open new thought processes and activities for you to enjoy despite any limitations you feel your diagnosis may be placing on your life.

How have you kept your individuality despite a diagnosis? What do you like to do for enjoyment? Have you learned something surprising about your interests after a diagnosis that you didn’t expect?

Hope and Health – #AtoZChallenge2018

H is for Hope and Health – #AtoZChallenge2018


Whether you realize it or not our state of health can often be tied to our emotional state, be it good or bad. When we are depressed it is more likely that our health may feel significantly worse to us. When we are happy it is much more likely that we will pay less attention to our health issues.

Unfortunately for many people chronic health issues and in particular chronic pain or disability, can lead to depression as a result of many factors which can include grieving our formerly healthy self, or even hopelessness, or anything in between. What many don’t realize is the importance of our mental and emotional health can have on our physical health. I’m neither stating, nor implying, that our physical ailments are caused by our mind. Rather I am pointing out the simple fact that our mood and state of mind can influence our physical health.

When we are sad, depressed, grieving etcetera it is more likely that we can withdraw from others, and may find it exhausting just to force ourselves to get out of bed in the morning. If you suffer from a physical issue, the immobility can compound your problems. Conversely if you are feeling very good, happy, and hopeful you may find that while you may pay a consequence for pushing your physical limits a bit too far, that you are more willing and able to cope with the after effects due to the happiness you feel.

For example, let’s say you are like myself, and hate to be cooped up in the house all the time. However walking is painful for you. Whether consciously or subconsciously we weigh the pros and cons of, in this case, taking a walk outside in our minds before making a decision either way. While I know I will hurt more for taking that walk and forcing my body to do things it may not particularly like it is worth it to me for the boost in mood it will give me by getting out of the house.

Maybe I walk to the grocery store to get a little item we need in the house, or even to the closest convenience store for a small cup of coffee. Getting out of the house does many things for us. It gives us hope that we can still have an enjoyable life despite our challenges. It provides a basic human need for socialization. A short walk provides fresh air and sunlight and boosts our mood in ways that may not even be understood or explainable.

Last summer when we had a pool up for the grandkids, I would make myself go outside each and every day just to skim and vacuum the pool. I did this for a variety of reasons. Firstly it gave me a purpose to get out of the house on the days maybe I didn’t feel like it, hurt too much, or just plain didn’t want to. Secondly it made me feel as if I were contributing to the household by doing a necessary task even when there are some things around the house that were nearly impossible for me to do physically. Lastly it gave me hope that I could be a productive member of the household on the days when I really didn’t feel like I was.

Be mindful of your mental or emotional state an dhow it can influence your particular situation. I’m not saying everybody has to practice yoga, meditation, or any particular sort of mindfulness technique. What I am saying is to be aware of how your moods may influence your physical health, and it goes without saying that your physical health can affect your moods.

It is when we feel as if we’re stuck in a hopeless situation, as we may feel from time to time, it is imperative that we acknowledge that feeling, and address it by doing something that will give us hope. Whether it is something as simple as reading a book on the porch, taking a walk, or whatever makes you feel good about life.

How do you keep hope despite the bad or challenging days? What works for you?

Grief – AtoZChallenge2018

G is for Grief – #AtoZChallenge2018


Grief is most commonly thought of as being associated with death but believe me when I tell you it applies to things outside of death. It can apply to nearly any life-altering event one might go through that leaves things dramatically changed in the wake of the change.

If you are diagnosed with a chronic medical condition that will permanently affect your normal way of life you could well experience the effects of grief. Even something as minor as a new allergy to a food you love could leave you missing life as it was before the serious allergy. I know that may sound overly dramatic, or even simplistic but it is both a legitimate example and one that may be more relatable for some as opposed to one with a physical disability. Maybe you grieve your old life before a major life change such as a geographic move, or even a divorce.

Grief can be as simple as occasionally missing something or someone or as complex as being a life-altering emotion that can grip most aspects or your life and even result in physical symptoms and ailments. This is not to say that the physical symptoms are purely psychological as the symptoms could be quite real. Rather it’s that the underlying mechanism triggering them may be the result of physical manifestations of the psychological emotion.

While grief comes in a variety of forms and severities, as well as causes, it can be a normal and at times even healthy experience. It is perfectly normal to grieve and each person may experience grief differently and for differing amounts of time. There are no definitive rules or timetables for most emotional responses, and this is true of grief as well.

Grief, unlike things such as depression, often cannot be cured, or even effectively managed with medication. Some would argue that depression can’t be effectively treated solely with medication and there are times that would be correct. Grief can, however, accompany depression after, for example, an injury that leaves you permanently physically disabled, or even the loss of a loved one.

The key to managing grief, like nearly any emotion, is to not simply ignore it. It will not simply go away by itself, nor will it likely even significantly improve without some way of addressing it and its underlying cause. There are many ways of addressing your grief and the way in which you address yours may be quite different than how somebody else in a similar situation has addressed their management of grief.

I’m not going to get into listing all the potential interventions for grief as that could turn into quite a long discussion, more so than I want to get into for this post. As a simple overview, you could do anything from simply practicing mindfulness or meditation, to a support group, or even seeking counsel from your primary care practitioner, or even referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Have you encountered grief in your life? If so what triggered it, and what did you do to manage it?

Food – #AtoZChallenge 2018

F is for Food – #AtoZChallenge 2018


You may be thinking what food could possibly have to do with managing chronic illness or chronic health issues in general. Well, I’m going to try to break it down for you in very easy ways to relate to.

The first and most obvious concern when it comes to food and nutrition is cost. If you are spending so much to simply exist and you can’t afford your medications or treatments that will prolong your life, you likely have trouble finding the money to eat healthily.

Nearly every time I am in the hospital the various members of my care team bring up the importance of proper nutrition and the importance of eating properly and regularly, especially due to the fact that while my blood sugar is typically controlled very well simply by diet under normal circumstances when I am in the hospital the medications skyrocket my sugars to where I am needing insulin to bring them back down.

I’ve educated many health professionals on the fallacy in their insistence that it is cheaper to eat healthy than most people think. Mind you I do not eat like this, but I have used it as an example on numerous occasions just to exemplify my point. I love fresh fruits and vegetables but let’s face it they are not cheap. The cost of eating healthy is much more than one might think, yet is incredibly important for our longevity and overall health.

If you price out what it will cost you for fresh fruits and vegetables, appropriately healthy meats, grains, bread, etcetera and compare it to, for example, a fast-food dollar menu or the low-cost microwaveable meals at your local grocery or warehouse store and I can tell you that it is much cheaper to eat poorly than to eat well. You could eat one item from the dollar menu at your local fast food store three times a day, using water as your beverage, and it will cost you three dollars a day. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find healthy alternatives to eat even one healthy meal for three dollars per day.

I want to be clear here, I’m not advocating that one eat fast food three times a day every day, or even once a day every day for that matter. I can tell you from experience as a healthcare provider that I have had this very discussion with patients with whom I’ve come in contact that they can’t afford to go to the grocery store for very much. They felt that by eating cheap fast food they were at least doing the best that they could to keep their food intake and blood sugars stable.

I will be the first to admit that I often do not eat properly. I realize and acknowledge the importance of proper nutrition and diet when it comes to health and wellness. I also appreciate the fact that I am essentially both poor and physically challenged in many ways. The spoon theory will be covered later this month in another post, but if you aren’t familiar with it you can surely find it via the almighty Google.

The point being if you don’t have the physical ability or endurance to stand and prepare a meal but maybe once a day, you try to find semi-healthy snacks or quick lunches to hold you over until later in the day because you know that once you expend the energy to prepare a proper meal, you will be too physically exhausted to do much else the rest of the day.

Maybe you have a condition that severely limits or even remove the ability for you to get up and make your own meals like POTS, also known as postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, which can make it nearly impossible to go from a sitting to standing position without passing out due to the effects on your body.

While I can’t and won’t dispute the importance of a proper diet and nutrition in overall health, I won’t sit behind my computer and lie to you and tell you that it is either easy or cheap, especially for those whom it may be most important to.

Do you have a story to share about the importance of diet and your health?