How I went from Anger to Acceptance of My Illness

Woman holding her head and looking stressed

By Lisa Mark, C.P.O.

It is said that the stages we experience when dealing with a life-changing illness or injury are similar to the stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

My illness was so extreme, life-altering, sudden, acute, severe and painful that I skipped the denial stage and went straight into anger. What turned out to be Gastroparesis was at the time a mystery that stumped my doctors, whose responses to me ranged from outright disbelief to hostility. So, yeah, I was angry.

My anger was caused partly by the awful managed-care practitioner I was seeing at the time. He had the ‘Denial’ stage down pat and accused me of lying about my symptoms to hide what he said was the true cause of my illness: Anorexia. Or maybe Bulimia.

But it was also because I was really, really pissed about having gotten sick in the first place.

I was pissed at myself for ignoring my initial symptoms until they became too severe to ignore, and for my weakness in getting sick in the first place.

I was pissed at my managed health practitioner for not believing me when I said I wasn’t making myself throw up.

I was pissed at the ER docs who misdiagnosed my illness as ‘vague stomach upset’ and sent me home with an antacid and order to ‘get some sleep.’

I was pissed at my health plan for providing so few good health care practitioners in my network.

Angry that I had to stop nursing my infant daughter because the medications I was on might cross into my breastmilk and affect her.

Pissed that while I was struggling to get better, my friends were caring for their kids, going on vacation, working and living their lives.

Angry at the cost of the financial and other resources my illness was sucking away from my family.

Angry that the life I’d laid out for myself was not turning out as I’d hoped.

Angry at the lack of acceptance from friends and family members who didn’t believe I was ‘really’ sick.

I had two little kids, aged 5 years and 3 months at the time of my first illness, and they needed me, their mom, to be healthy and available. And I was anything but. I was pissed about that, too.

I just couldn’t accept the fact that I was so sick and unavailable during these critical first years with my kids, a time when my family really needed me to be healthy.

Yeah, I spent a lot of time being pissed. Which made it difficult, if not impossible, for me to heal.

The Turning Point

My friend, one of the few who didn’t abandon me when I needed her most, stopped by to sit with me so my spouse could go to work. I was so sick that I couldn’t be left alone. She sat next to me on my sofa, patiently listening while I ranted and railed about the unfairness of it all. Why me? I kept saying. Why did IIII have to get sick? Why couldn’t it have been any one of a number of other women that I knew?

When I was finished, exhausted and tear-stained, my beautiful friend turned to me and asked me the question that would start me on my journey of acceptance and healing.

She asked me why I thought it would be any fairer if illness had happened to someone else instead of me. In essence, she was asking, ‘Why not you?’

I hate to say it, but she had a point. Why, indeed, not me? Who am I to think I am exempt from this illness?

And it was at that moment that I started to accept my illness, let go of my anger, and heal.

Happiness is: Eating a Corn Dog in the Park

By Maureen DeGarmo

Recently, I had a visit with a long-time friend, whose mother lives in a nearby residential care home. My friend asked her mom if she would like to go out for a steak dinner for Mother’s Day, as they had done last year. Strangely, her mother said no, she wanted a corn dog. So, my friend and her husband picked up Mom and drove to a park. They sat in the car, ate corn dogs, enjoyed the sunshine and had a visit. It was exactly what Mom wanted, and she was content with how they celebrated Mother’s Day. Continue reading

10 Signs You are at the Wrong Doctor’s Office

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

Have you ever been at a doctor’s office where you couldn’t wait to escape? Here are 10 signs that you are in the wrong place.
  1. You do not feel heard
  2. You do feel rushed
  3. The visit confuses rather than clarifies
  4. The doctor repeatedly interrupts you
  5. The doctor does not appear to be listening to you
  6. You do not have enough time to discuss everything that concerns you
  7. The doctor pays more attention to the person with you than she does to you
  8. The doctor provides remedies that do not apply to you, such as telling you to stop smoking when you don’t smoke
  9. The doctor is condescending, either in tone or in actions
  10. The doctor does not allow you to share important information that might have changed follow up care and treatment options.
…And how to change it

Continue reading

The Day My Child Became My Advocate

By Lisa Mark, C.P.O.

Advocates are all around us. When you have a tribe to advocate for your well-being and safety, it makes even the most serious illness more bearable. The story below is about a nine-year-old girl who thought that it was important to speak up on my behalf. I share it with you so that you can understand that sometimes support comes from the most unexpected sources.

When my older daughter was nine and my younger daughter was four, we took the (for me) brave step of eating out at a nearby family restaurant. Because I was still recovering from my nearly fatal bout of blood poisoning, still had touches of gastroparesis, and was very susceptible to infection from improperly prepared foods, I had one condition to eating out: that everything I ordered needed to be brought to the table steaming hot to ensure that any bacteria had been neutralized.

I ordered fresh orange juice and requested that it be microwaved (I know, I know) and brought to the table hot. The server who took our order agreed to my strange request. My oldest and her dad then went to the salad bar while I stayed at the table with my youngest. It took them a long time to come back to the table; so long, in fact, that I was beginning to worry. When they returned to the table my nine-year-old was frowning and my spouse looked annoyed. Our conversation went something like this.

Me: ‘Something wrong?’

Nine-year-old: starts to speak, looks at her dad, frowns. ‘Nothing.’ Continue reading

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

How Making Tea Changed My Life

By Lisa Mark, C.P.O.

I want to empower you, even if it just means making a cup of tea.

If you are experiencing a Traumatic Illness, then you might be thinking, “I can’t do anything more than be in this one comfort spot on the couch.” But maybe with the guidance of friends, there may be a way for you to participate in life a little bit more than you otherwise could.

When I was sick, an acquaintance told me how she’d coped with the death of her spouse from brain cancer. Continue reading