Recognize that the illness is chronic
You will swim through the phases of grief for the rest of your life, because with a chronic condition comes new limitations as the illness progresses. Don't be too hard on yourself; reach out to others, build up friendships with those that understand, pursue new hobbies that get your mind off of the illness, take a second look at your faith and how this effects it.
 Be a good advocate for your health
You know your body better than anyone else and the likelihood is that you will get tons of well-meaning advice from both friends and strangers. Be discerning in what you choose to follow and what you choose to let go. Kindly thank those that offer their advice but don't make any promises or feel obligated to try anything they offer.
 Do research on new medications and study possible alternative treatments carefully
Be wise in how much money you invest in alternative treatments; don't continue to dump money into alternative treatments when the practitioners continue to offer promises and testimonials. Recognize that alternative supplements are not regulated by the FDA and may not be as effective as they claim or even safe.
 Choose your doctors carefully
Ask for referrals. Find a doctor who your personality clicks with. Don't be demanding or act like you know more than s/he does, even if you occasionally do. Build a team of doctors that is willing to work with you to give you the best quality of life.
 Refuse to give into bitterness
It's easy to get caught up in the blues of "but they don't understand!" and "they are so lucky and they don't even appreciate it!" Defy the tendency to feel sorry for yourself and instead choose joy. One of the best books I've read on this topic is Tim Hansel's "You Gotta Keep Dancin'."
 Step outside yourself
Even if you aren't happy about the diagnosis, in time you will witness others going down this same path and you may have a desire to reach out. Follow that passion! Reaching out to another person who is dealing with similar circumstances can be healing for both of you and will give your illness purpose, even on the days with great physical pain.
 Get a grip on guilt
It's natural, especially if you have a family, to feel intense feelings of guilt that you are bringing everyone down with you. Recognize that this illness is not a judgment or punishment-it simply is. You may not be able to choose to live without it but you can choose how to live with it. Your kids and spouse are watching to see how you will handle this. Make them proud.
 Allow yourself to be vulnerable
On the flip side, you don't have to be a steel magnolia and always keep a stiff upper lip. Find a friend, a mentor, a buddy-someone who you can let down your frustrations, struggles, hopes and fears with. You'll find that illness may leave you with fewer friends than before but the quality of relationships may be much more precious.
If you lead a support group or are considering it, don't miss Lisa Copen's new book, http://StartAnIllnessSupportGroup.com for your ministry needs. Over 300 pages with step-by-step instructions on how to write a vision statement, promotion and attendance and much more!
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