How to Endure Set Backs in Chronic Illness

Endure Set Backs in Chronic IllnessWhen you suffer from a chronic illness your life randomly spins out of control as you try to endure setbacks. Illness with a mind of its own flares up ending temporary remission and teaches you to distrust your body. You never know when it will let you down. And when it does you will blame yourself. You worked too hard, traveled too far, indulged in too much sugar, gluten, dairy or whatever. Don’t go there. It is not on you.

All human beings show wear and tear as we age, but the body parts of those with chronic illnesses age faster.

It’s not fair. But nothing about life is fair. It’s a crap-shoot at best. Otherwise why would good people get sick?

Like Frannie whose battle with lupus has worn out her kidneys and heart. Everybody loves Frannie. She lights up all of Sterling with her smile and fills your soul with energy when she wraps you in one of her big bear hugs.

Like my kind and loyal childhood friend Jane, who has fought multiple sclerosis for decades. When her legs give out she rides around her house on her scooter never complaining.

Like my writing buddy Kathy out east, who pours positivity in every word of her inspirational blog Memoir Writer’s Journey. After surviving Stage Four Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, over a decade later, she now faces dialysis when her kidneys began to fail from the chemo treatments.

As I struggle to breath from a reoccurring respiratory and inflammatory illness, my spirits sink, my energy wanes, my heartaches.Endure Set Backs in Chronic Illness

I cry, I rant, I lash out at the world in anger. Why me? Why not you? You don’t have to look far to bear witness to someone else’s suffering.

Why did this bacteria, cancer, virus pick my body to invade?

I rage at the injustice. Then I pick myself back off the floor and keep going.

Here are ways to help cope during those inevitable setbacks.

Rest but try to keep your mind busy. Watch Netflix series or listen to podcasts.

Read books. If you want good recommendations check out my friend Helen Cohen Bludman’s blog Books Is Wonderful or try one of Lynne Spreen’s Karen/Grace Blues series, featuring an adventuresome middle aged protagonist.

Call a sister, brother, daughter, son, parent, friend or other loved one

Draw strength from others in unexpected cards, emails, FB notices.

Follow bloggers that write/research about your illness like my friend Cathy Chester’s Empowered Spirit‘s blog about living graciously and staying positive despite a diagnosis of MS.

Eat soup.

Strum a guitar.

Form a support group.

Join a forum.

Share a hug.

Though today is our only guarantee, make plans for tomorrow.

Take baby steps.Endure Set Backs in Chronic Illness

As soon as I am physically able, I force myself to go outside and put one foot in front of the other. I look at the magnificent view around me and beseech the mountaintops, “Give me the strength to go on.”

When I can, I walk for Fran, for Jane, for Kathy and for all those people who struggle each day to get out of bed, put on a happy face and keep fighting.

We may be wounded…

but we are still warriors.

Posted in inspiration.


  1. I cannot imagine what you have dealt with for so many years. You are an amazing woman – a model for all of us to deal with adversity and continue to move onward. I wish you comfort and hope, and I send hugs. So proud of you.

  2. Oh, Pat, I am so sorry for your suffering. You do it well, though. I was moved by what Viktor Frankl said about suffering, which I’ll paraphrase badly no doubt: Some see the pages of one’s calendar torn off, and grieve over time passing. Frankl says to think of each page of the calendar as a well-lived, fine accounting of oneself. The stack of pages amounts to a kind of wealth, like a full granary. How did I do? How did I live? What is the accounting of my life? This perspective gives our days meaning. Meaning can be found in suffering. In America, we act like we’re ashamed of it. Why not hold your head up and suffer proudly? Add it to your list of accomplishments. Don’t seek it, but if you’re stuck with it, do it well. Add it to your life’s accounting….Pat, I am with you in spirit and I hope your flareup of difficulty ends quickly. Sending love.

    • Lynne, I appreciate your wisdom. What a novel idea, but a great way to approach suffering. Today I will not feel ashamed that I cannot keep up with the pace of modern life, but I will own my pain and endure with dignity. Thanks for your inspiration words, I will stand taller today.

  3. Oh, Pat, your words teally touched me to tears. Thank you for the mention. Like you, I have my days of discouragement and you remind me to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. I aim to live in gratitude, thankful for each day. I’m sorry to hear of your setback and I know you will fight yourself through with your warrior spirit. Sending love and blessings your way.

    • Thanks Kathy. I know we draw strength from one another. On my roughest days I have an image of you holding me up with your faith, kindness and friendship.

  4. Pat, through your struggles you remain a strong inspiration for me. I cringe at the whining I do over my “first world problems.” I forget to look at those who are battling everyday physical and mental challenges. I am reminded to stop and count my blessings and of course, pray for my friends and family who are dealing with issues beyond my comprehension. I am grateful for every good day I have and contemplate how it could all be shattered in an instant with an illness, accident, or other. I need to savor all that is well in my life and your posts remind me to do that.
    Praying for you, as always, my friend. May your good days outnumber the bad and may you find strength and peace in the beauty outside your window.

    • Thanks Tinie for your never ending prayers, friendship and loyalty. I have told you before but will tell you again, just hearing your up-beat, energized voice fills me with strength. I was blessed the day you walked into my gym and know that you always have my back.

  5. So many important words of wisdom here Pat! Our society perpetuates the myth that we’re in control of our lives if we do all the right things. Reality teaches us that things happen that we have no control over. You can do all the smart things for healthy lifestyle and our bodies and minds will still fail us. Finding blame doesn’t help. You’re a wonderful example of do the best we can with what we’ve got. I’ll be sharing this on FB and Twitter for #MLSTL

    • Thanks for sharing Mary Lou. We all buy into that myth that we can control outcomes by living right even when reality tells us differently. Decades ago after my car accident I remember reading, Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People. I think it is worth rereading. I am glad we met on the Midlife Blvd. Now I can also follow your blog for inspiration.

  6. Pat, I’m so sorry to hear of this temporary setback, but you’ve got a GREAT action plan and the determination to keep going, as well lots of encouraging family and friends in your corner. My late dad used to say there’s enough pain and misery in this old world to go around for all of us (this, as he was lying in bed fighting esophagus cancer). I’ve found that to be true. When I question, Why Me? over my recurring back issues, I try to remind myself of that and to be grateful that it’s not some other cross to bear. Hang in there, my friend, and know you’re being hugged and prayed for long distance!!

    • Thanks Debbie. I appreciate your uplifting comments. I can so relate to your recurring back issues. Even though though damage to the disks have already been damaged, I find that yoga helps somewhat. I want to create a traction device that pulls my neck and feet at the same time to relieve the pressure. I am assuming it is your low back. Do you have any tricks to help?

  7. Thanks Pat, I know we have talked in the past about our illness struggles. It always helps to get out of myself and realize how many people struggle on a daily basis. I’m blessed with only occasional flair-ups. I pray that you are healthy and continue to inspire us.

    • Thanks Joanie. I feel your hugs long distance. I often think of you when I am having a tough day and know that you are fighting too. Did they ever give you a clear diagnosis? Thinking of you.

  8. Sending healing hugs to you and all who suffer. I find meditation and taking time to stop, breathe and be helps me when I am in pain. Mindfulness meditation really works.

  9. So sorry to hear about anyone suffering. Life is a journey, a marathon, and a battle. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers as you persevere! I ran into Phil at the drug store and he filled me in on Fran. I hope to go visit her sometime. The mom of the kids I babysit, who’s just 31 just went back to work this week after an excruciating year long battle with cancer. Her ending was a happy one but her and her family were sure put through a trial! Take care Pat and keep writing!

    • Thanks Marilyn. Like you said “life is a journey, a marathon, a battle.” But you know it is a good sign when I am writing again and I appreciate all your support for my blog. Thanks for letting me know the latest update on Fran.

  10. Pat I had no idea you were struggling with this and I am so sorry that you are. Your gentle & kind soul radiates through your words and makes me wish I was there in person to chat and comfort you. I know you are a warrior but go easy on yourself when you feel like screaming. We are only human! I will keep you in my thoughts & prayers with hopes for better tomorrows. With great love and admiration, Cathy

    • Thanks Cathy. I know you know how health problems cramp one’s style. ha I am hoping that my readers that may suffer from MS will find comfort and inspiration from your words on Empowered Spirit. Sending love and courage right back at you.

  11. Thanks Pat for the picture of my colleague, handball opponent, and friend of many years, Jim. We are in Arizona without them. We are all so lucky to know your folks. Hang in there. Love, Mike

    • Thanks Mike. I appreciate your kinds words from way out there in Arizona. I had forgotten that you 2 used to play handball. I know my folks really miss being out West with you, but thanks for helping them create so many happy memories over the year to keep them warm during the snowy, cold winters in Illinois.

  12. Pat, I am sorry to hear about this but I love your fierce strength and internal fortitude. Among all the things you list “to do” please never stop writing. It’s inspirational.

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