Six Dos and Don’ts for Living Well with a Chronic Illness

image051-2Our thanks to Charlene Marshall of, for an excellent list of “Six Dos and Don’ts for Living Well with a Chronic Illness”.

Charlene notes there is no right or wrong way to deal with the diagnosis of a life-threatening or chronic illness, nor are there instructions on how to cope while living with it. Each person’s journey with a chronic illness is as unique as they are, and strategies that work for some will not work for others. There is strength in numbers and usually with a little networking, people can find ways of coping from those who are willing to share what’s been helpful to them. The hope is that they can apply the experiences of others to their own lives to better cope with their disease as these tips:

DO Allow yourself time to process all the emotions. You may feel happy that you have finally found an answer to your symp- toms and why you feel unwell. It doesn’t mean you are happy with the diagnosis, but having an answer and a subsequent treatment plan brings a sense of a relief. Process all the emotions including anger, guilt, sadness, fear and frustration. There is no right or wrong way to feel and giving yourself time to process all the emotions is important.

Seek out support from friends, family and colleagues. As much as it might feel easier to do this alone, living with illness can become overwhelming quickly. Feeling guilty and like a burden are common, but be aware of these feelings and seek out friends and family members who can support you. This will alleviate some of the guilt of frequently asking the same small group of people to support you.

Embrace your diagnosis as an opportuni- ty to educate: knowledge is power! Sharing your story may be hard at first, and it will take courage, but often the rewards out- weigh the risks of sharing details of your illness. People who care about you will want to jump on board with how they can help raise awareness for a cause that is now dear to them, because you are important to those around you. Raising awareness and educating others is a powerful way to harness some control back into your life, and you never know who you may touch or inspire along the way.

Stay off Google! As tempting as it is to pull up millions of online pages of infor- mation about your illness within seconds, it is often unhelpful unless you are seeking a credible source. Sometimes the informa- tion online is terrifying and the important thing to remember is that when it comes to your health, your physician or team of specialists are the most knowledgeable and should be your first stop for information.image053-2

DON’T Try to protect others by not sharing your struggles. This is an incredibly hard lesson to learn, but one that is important. Your struggles are a product of your disease. Protecting others puts them in a position of failure when it comes to helping you: they cannot help you if they don’t know the reality of your situation.

Don’t put off asking questions. Your questions are important, they are valid and they are why doctors are there: to answer your questions and treat your disease. If you have a question, it’s important to speak up in a timely manner so that you can manage your disease as effectively as possible.

Nutrition Tips

People with chronic lung problems must cope with an imbalance between energy supply and energy demand. Metabolic demands are increased due to the work of breathing, and calorie intake often is not enough to meet these demands. The net effect is progressive malnutrition.

You can eat small amounts more fre- quently to get your required calories. Small- er amounts of food will also help lessen abdominal distention and upward pressure on the diaphragm which can cause short- ness of breath. Avoid gas producing foods that will cause bloating. These include beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, onions, raw apples, melons and cabbage. You will learn what you can tolerate.

Fats produce less carbon dioxide than does a carbohydrate rich diet. Your lungs won’t have to work so hard to get rid of the carbon dioxide.image056-6

Do not skip meals even if you don’t feel like eating. Drink a liquid breakfast or nutritional supplement in the morning. To save energy, choose foods that are easy to prepare.

Drink 8 to 12 cups of water or non- caffeinated liquids every day to help keep your mucus thin and easy to cough up. If you drink your beverage at the end of the meal, it will prevent you from filling up quickly.

Don’t waste energy consuming foods with little nutritional value, such as potato chips, candy bars and soft drinks.