8 Ways to Avoid Alienating Your Friends During Your Illness

By Maureen DeGarmo

One of the more difficult side effects of a traumatic illness can be alienating your friends. When you are in pain, it’s easy to become isolated and inactive. When you do have a visitor, you may be tempted to unburden all of your accumulated pain and frustration upon your visitor. Here are some tips for sharing your pain without losing the support of your friends.

1) State the facts, clearly and simply. Your family likely already knows the basics, so be brief. Some examples:

  • “My pain back has extended down my leg, and now my leg is tingling.”
  • “The doctor has recommended physical therapy.”
  • “I had an MRI last week, which revealed some nerve damage.”

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Lisa’s Story: Gastroparesis

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

What would you do if suddenly you were unable to eat or drink anything at all? Gastroparesis is a condition that paralyzes the muscles of the stomach and causes them to stop working. This condition makes it difficult or impossible to digest food.

August is Gastroparesis Awareness Month, recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the Health Observances Calendar, which is designed to spread awareness of a variety of health conditions. Continue reading

25 Ways to Take Your Mind Off Your Pain

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

Chronic pain can be a ruthless dictator, controlling many aspects of our lives. A pervasive and unwanted companion, it forces us to choose between fun activities and responsibilities; between doing what we want to do and what we need to do. Sometimes pain, nausea and exhaustion allows us to do nothing but curl up and ride it out. Other times, diverting attention can make pain a bit more manageable. Here are 25 methods to help manage pain.

  1. Meditate (Find a quiet place, close your eyes, and go to your happy place)
  2. Listen to a relaxation audio recording (some free ones are posted on YouTube)
  3. Start a gratitude list/calendar/bowl
  4. Do a good deed for someone
  5. Talk to a trusted friend
  6. Write in a journal
  7. Stretch
  8. Listen to a comedian
  9. Make someone else laugh
  10. Play with pets
  11. Snuggle the cat
  12. Snuggle a small child or a baby
  13. Watch a favorite movie or show
  14. Listen to a book-on-tape
  15. Read a good book
  16. Write a thank-you note
  17. Listen to music
  18. Sing a favorite song
  19. Peruse old photos
  20. Make cookies for a neighbor
  21. Sit under a tree
  22. Eat lunch outside
  23. Listen to nature sounds
  24. Take a bubble bath
  25. Get a pedicure



Top 5 Effects of Chronic Illness

By Maureen DeGarmo

Those of us who battle a chronic illness think differently than others. We filter everything through the difficult lens of “how does this affect my illness?” This is a necessity, not a luxury. Here are the top five ways that illness affects my life.

  1. Direct Side-Effects: When our bodies don’t function well, many parts of our life change. Digestive illnesses make going out to eat awkward or impossible. Someone with chronic back pain may not be able to sit through an entire movie at a theater. A person with a traumatic brain injury may forget a conversation you just had yesterday. These are the direct effects.
  1. Family: Every decision that I make affects my family. For example, a 20-minute drive causes increased vertigo for 1-2 days afterward, but if someone drives me, my symptoms are less severe. Also, for each choice – whether it is fun or productive – another activity must be reduced or eliminated. Therefore, each choice requires careful consideration before making any commitments.

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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

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

What is The Difference Between Accepting and Giving Up?

By Maureen DeGarmo

What is the difference between accepting and giving up? This can be a tough distinction for those who must bear a chronic illness, so let’s discuss it a bit. Start by identifying the things which cannot be changed.

For me, the fact that I have chronic vertigo will not change. I don’t have to like it, but accepting it will help me to create adaptations for my life. On the other hand, some things can be changed, Continue reading

When Your Body Just Won’t

Woman with hair covering her eyes

By Lisa Mark, C.P.O.

I was raised to believe that if there is a will, there is a way. This outlook enabled me to support myself through college, to accept a job working in high tech, about which I knew nothing, to advocate for my older daughter’s medical needs when she was a baby (while having a managed care medical plan that was paid for NOT treating her), and to start and run my own business despite not having a clue what I was doing. I’ve always been a bit stubborn, a bit strong-willed, and this outlook defined my life. For me, I had the will, and therefore the way to accomplish what I needed to do.

But as far as my body is concerned, where there is a will no longer means there is a way. Continue reading