Why The Cane is Our Friend

By Maureen DeGarmo

My parents grew up in the Great Depression. For them, self-reliance was very important, and they avoided anything that might diminish their sense of independence. Using a cane was one symbol of declining independence.

I feel just the opposite. For me, a cane is a great communicator. It is a silent, tangible signal that changes the way others react to me in public, and therefore I do not have to actually warn people of my tenuous balance.

It says:

  • “Don’t knock me over.”
  • “Don’t expect me to move quickly.”
  • “Something is not working properly.”
  • “I might not react as you would expect others to react.”

A while back, I was in a store with my cane. Continue reading

Minimalism and Illness

By Maureen DeGarmo

I just finished watching Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.

In this film, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus tell the story of how they simplified their lives and how that process affected them. Sharing the film around the country brings their message to a great number of people who want to reduce their footprint and live more simply.

Living with a Traumatic Illness causes widespread changes: working, relationships, family dynamics, home upkeep, and how we eat. The longer an illness persists, the more extensive the effects will be. What if simplifying our lives could help us manage our illness?

Here are some ideas for simplifying life, straight from the Minimalism documentary: Continue reading

How to Talk About Your Pain Without Whining


By Maureen DeGarmo

You’re in pain all the time. Many of your friends are not, and they don’t understand. How do you open up to them without sounding like you’re complaining?

This is a difficult question and one that I have personally struggled to answer. I want to be sure that I don’t alienate my friends by monopolizing their time discussing nothing but my illness. Asking about their life certainly helps balance the conversation, but that does not help me decide what to share about myself.

A recent column by Carolyn Hax, a columnist with the Washington Post, provides some very clear guidelines. She recommends: Continue reading

The 5-D To Do List

By Maureen DeGarmo and Lisa Mark, C.P.O.

You don’t feel well. You look around and see things that need to be put away, projects that need work, and reminders that your body has betrayed you. Pain, fatigue, brain fog, lack of stamina, learning to live in your new normal…whatever your symptoms are, they prevent you from accomplishing daily tasks.

Let’s try an exercise.

  • Write (or record) a list of things that you need to do. Include everything that is on your mind: taking your medications, resting, doctor’s appointments, picking up clutter, paying bills, driving the kids, laundry, dishes, cleaning the bathroom, etc.
  • Now, rate your energy level for the day, on a scale of 0-10. Zero would be you cannot even get out of bed that day. A level ten would be how you felt prior to your illness.
  • Next, I want you to prioritize your list, and sort it by these categories:

Continue reading

Chronic Illness or Traumatic Illness?

By Maureen DeGarmo

A Chronic Illness is one that persists for three months or more, or for a lifetime. It cannot be prevented by a vaccine or cured by medication, nor will it just disappear. A person with a chronic illness needs to constantly manage this condition (sources: MedicineNet.com and The Free Dictionary).

A Traumatic Illness is any type of illness that impacts the person’s life in a way that changes how they live. Continue reading