After more than fifteen years of being mostly housebound by chronic illness (which includes chronic pain), here are a few of the dilemmas I’ve faced over and over. I’m confident that I’m not alone in my “should I/shouldn’t I?” world. Do I accept an invitation from a friend to get together or do I refuse it? If I refuse the invitation, depending on who issued it, it may be the last one ...

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I accompanied my husband to an office visit with his orthopedic surgeon. Jamie had been experiencing setbacks in his recovery from major surgery. I went with him because I understand how hard it can be to distill medical information on the spot, much less remember it. Documenting what the surgeon said would allow us both to reference it later. The more information Jamie had about his condition, the more of ...

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Many of us now have high-deductible health insurance plans, which makes us “cash-pay” patients until we meet our deductibles. According to a Health Affairs health policy brief, high deductible plans are now much more prevalent in both individual and group markets. The higher the deductible, the lower the monthly premium. If you have a high deductible plan and don’t consume much medical care, you are most likely a cash pay ...

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When my friend Madeline turned seventy, she celebrated in a big way: She walked a half-marathon; she hosted a cabaret for family and friends at which she sang and told stories; she traveled to China. Now, six years later, this dynamic woman has become a virtual prisoner in her apartment. She has undergone back surgery, suffered a nearly fatal intestinal infection and, after a fall, had bolts and screws placed ...

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I grew up thinking an “illness” was either a fever or croup. Illness was a stuffy nose -- a sick day, an excuse to miss a day of school. At 18 years old, “illness” took on an entirely different meaning. Illness meant waking up from a coma, learning that my stomach exploded, I had no digestive system, and I was to be stabilized with IV nutrition until surgeons could figure ...

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“Hey, doc, you’re killing me.” Or, more specifically, us. A recent report from researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine points to medical errors as the third leading cause of death in this country. Despite the many safeguards put in place by the government, hospitals, and doctors, themselves, more than 250,000 people a year in the U.S. die from hospital-acquired infections, wrong-site surgeries, medication mistakes and a host of ...

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One weekend about nine-and-a-half years ago, I flew from Minneapolis, where I live, to Atlanta for a publishing conference. A colleague and I were to make a presentation to the vice-president of one of our major customers. For a couple of weeks, I'd been plagued by a sore throat, but I'd written it off as allergies or a virus. When I tried to begin the presentation, though, all that came out ...

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I slipped and fell. My hip fractured, surgery would make it better. But it didn't. My body was too weak to fight. I couldn't cough and deep breathe; I stayed in bed. I had nausea and vomiting. I couldn't breathe. I became weaker and weaker, until my family noticed. The medics rushed me into the ER. My blood pressure was 62/34. For how long? The ER nurses and doctors tried ...

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"Do you need help getting undressed?" Jon asks from the doorway of our bedroom, one hand holding his BlackBerry, the other tucked into the front pocket of his baggy jeans. His head is slightly tilted, his eyebrows arched, highlighting his forehead wrinkles. His phone vibrates, drawing his eyes from me to the incoming message. I wait. Jon reads, ponders and then looks up, half-absorbed in what he's just read, and registers that ...

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This piece is based on personal experience and on the thousands of emails I’ve received from those who live day-to-day with chronic illness (which includes chronic pain). 1. Email. I know the joy of hearing the actual voice of a loved one. That said, email is the principal way I communicate with people. It’s hard for me to talk on the phone. It saps my energy quickly, partly because of the need for ...

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