Chronic diseases – such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis – are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems in the U.S. Chronic diseases are the leading cause of death and disability in the U.S. Four modifiable health risk behaviors—lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption—are responsible for much of the illness, suffering, and early death related to chronic diseases.I live with chronic disease but I'm not represented in the top five diseases. It is assumed that people could prevent their chronic illnesses if only they led a healthier lifestyle. But you don't develop multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis because you ate poorly, drank alcohol or were physically inactive. (Smoking, however, has been shown in studies to increase the likelihood of developing MS.)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
For next week's “Patients For A Moment” edition, Leslie asks the following question:
What advice would you give, or what would you want non-chronically ill people to know about your illness and your life?What would I want people to know? That's a tough one because I don't often think that non-chronically ill people would want to know more about my illness, honestly. Not unless they had a direct connection to me personally.
Who are the non-chronically ill?
In 2005, 133 million Americans – almost 1 out of every 2 adults – had at least one chronic illness.2Let me use my own my own family (and that of Rob's) as an example. There are three adults aged 60-75 and five adults aged 34-41. Of those eight adults, four live with chronic disease. Myself and our parents. Our siblings are "healthy." (So we do represent 1 out of 2 adults living with at least one chronic illness.)
What would I want the healthy siblings to know? Let me think (type) out loud.
I don't enjoy having these diseases. In fact, I despise them. But they are a part of me now, so I can't comfortably despise them too much. I don't want to hate myself just because I have illnesses.
Notice I didn't say that I am ill. I'm not "sick." If I have a cold or bronchitis, then I am sick. But MS and RA are not sicknesses, they are diseases which are constantly working within my body. They are always active whether we know it or not.
There is the underlying fear of waking up one day and finding that one of the diseases has decided to attack and flare such that it takes away another little part of me or my abilities. That fear can become oppressive and in the quiet of the day, I am afraid.
How do I deal with that fear?
Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I look to the people who have been more affected by these diseases and observe how wonderfully they live their lives. That gives me inspiration that no matter what, I will be okay. I have already adapted to changing circumstances, I will continue to adapt as necessary.
That's what humans do so well. We adapt. We are flexible creatures who do not need generations to adapt to new circumstances. We don't have generations, we only have our own life to live.
One life to live.
That's what I would want the non-chronic illness people to know. We only have this one time through life. It isn't a straight journey, but has many twists and turns. True for all of us, non-chronically ill or chronically ill.
Now I'm highly adaptable (I have no choice) but I can't do this alone. I need your help and support. I don't need to be pitied or ignored. I don't need to be coddled or stifled.
I do need your love and support. Treat me as you would like to be treated if you were in my situation. I am just like you, but traveling a slightly different path. I may be "diseased" but I am still me.
I am still me.