Category Archives: helping

Your Friend Just Got Diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis. What the Heck?

 

First of all, what is Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS)?

Wait, how do you even pronounce it?

Ankylosing Spondylitis (An-kee-low-sing Spon-dih-ly-tuss) is a disease that causes inflammation throughout the body, especially in the spine and low back, and can cause bone spurs to fuse joints together, typically in the spine. As you can imagine, extra bone growing in your body that’s not supposed to be there can be quite painful. Additionally, since AS is systemic it can also damage organs including the eyes, liver, lungs, and more.

AS is generally treated by a specialist doctor called a rheumatologist. The clinical treatment recommended to slow down the progression of AS, as stated in the 2015 AS treatment guidelines published by the American College of Rheumatology, is a biologic drug if non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs fail (my understanding is that a combination of therapies is common, both pharmacological and complementary). A biologic is a specialty drug made from living cells (biologically, rather than chemically) that, in short, suppresses the immune system. In ankylosing spondylitis, the body constantly attacks itself, seemingly without a real danger present, which causes inflammation and damage. The biologic drugs slow that reaction but in doing so also decrease the body’s ability to fight infection. You can read more about how autoimmune vs auto-inflammatory diseases work here (hint: AS isn’t proven to be autoimmune).

So now that you know a teeny bit more about AS imagine you are the one who was just diagnosed with it.

Scary, huh?


Congratulations are in order simply because you are reading this blog post. It’s difficult to believe, but I often hear from people whose family and friends shun them for “faking being sick.” These same family and friends often don’t make an effort to learn what their loved one is actually experiencing. So thank goodness you believe your friend and want to learn more.

Continue reading Your Friend Just Got Diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis. What the Heck?

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“An Invisible Disease” – my TEDx talk

In September, I had the honor and privilege of giving a TEDx talk just two weeks after my father died from Ankylosing Spondylitis, a disease I inherited from him. I am so grateful for having this platform to share via the Sacramento TEDx Changemakers series.

I hope you’ll watch and share this video to raise awareness about living with chronic illness, but I also hope you’ll take something away for your own journey.

Click here to watch the 8-minute video:

An Invisible Disease : Charis Hill : Sacramento TEDx Salon


Dorothy’s Oranges

Dorothy has an orange tree in her back yard

Seedless

Sweet

Ripe and ready last week

Far-reaching

Heavenly

The tree groans and shrugs under the weight of full, ripe, juice-running-down-fingers oranges pulling nutrients from within her aged spine of a trunk

A giving tree.

4419-MMS-1443156449716-attachment1-20150924_183634-1Loving our neighbors means sharing our oranges

Because when we have an abundance of fruit, why let it go sour in our back yards?

Dorothy loves her neighbors

Dorothy is a sweet orange

And her sweetness extends beyond the last morsel of citrus – there is always more, and next year the tree will be full again

Sharing the sweetness of our gifts is not a rotten pursuit

 

Tomorrow I Am Famous

For 60 seconds I will be famous. On the runway, the catwalk – whatever surface my heels will be wobbling on as I make my legs appear longer than they are and my heart less frantic than it will be. Few in the crowd of celebrities, photographers, stylists, and designers will know my name, but for 60 long seconds I will be the one everyone is looking at. It doesn’t matter to them who I am, and that’s ok. I’m there to sell clothes.

But I’ll be selling something else, too. I’ll be selling dreams and awareness for those living with incurable chronic diseases.

For the five hours before I take the first bold step on that plank runway I will be backstage interacting with dozens of people – models, makeup artists, hairstylists, designers, stylists, photographers, and producers. Many of these people will see me as another model who wants to make it big in fashion. I’ll be another face to paint, another head to sculpt, another frame to drape and dress. I don’t blame them. That’s why most models walk in big fashion shows – to make it big. But I’m not in this to be America’s Next Top Model.

I’m in this to share my story. I’m in this to bring fashion and sickness together in a powerful way that changes people’s perceptions and awareness of invisible illnesses.


Backstage while I’m getting hair and makeup done, there is plenty of time for conversation. Continue reading Tomorrow I Am Famous

A Marriage of Sickness and Health

Dear future partner,

We haven’t met yet, or maybe we have and time wasn’t ready.
We need to talk. Now. Before I fall in love with you, before you fall in love with me.

Because I don’t want my disease to cause you to leave me.

Too often I see sad posts in online support communities for severe disease groups. Like this one:

“My spouse just asked for a divorce after 25 years of marriage. She said she could no longer handle being married to my condition. I work full time, I do chores, I am a great partner and parent. I just can’t hide when I’m having such bad pain. I feel so alone. Can someone share how they got through this? How can I be in another relationship if I know my disease could cause someone to leave?”

These posts wrench my stomach. I cry, “Another one?” And I have two reactions: hope and fear.   Continue reading A Marriage of Sickness and Health

Walmart’s Little Experiment Screwed My Hometown

 

20160202_165125In recent days headlines have announced Walmart’s decision to close their experimental neighborhood stores just a few years after the pilot program began. For many this is just another announcement of a mega-retailer changing strategy in order to improve profits. But what is a small failure to Walmart has huge, real-life impacts on the small towns where many of these neighborhood stores were built. A few examples are Oriental, NC; Redwater, TX; Chicago, IL; and Rose Hill, Kansas. People lost jobs, but not before many towns lost their locally owned, family run grocery stores and pharmacies that had adequately served the same community through thick and thin for decades.

In Oriental, Town N Country, in business over 40 years, held on as long as possible against the monopoly and sadly closed at the end of October, 2015, less than three months before news came that the Walmart neighborhood market would be closing. Oriental is a quaint fishing village with a lot of quirky retired people.  We didn’t make national news, but now we’re left with no grocery store and no pharmacy in our village of 900 people.  Our marriage with Walmart cannot be annulled and it came with no prenuptial agreements, so we are left to deal with the mess left on our doorstep. Continue reading Walmart’s Little Experiment Screwed My Hometown

Helping Charis

Those of you who have been reading my blog, and those of you who know me personally know I’m good at sharing important, gruesome, sad, exciting, powerful pieces of my life so others’ lives may be impacted positively. You have seen that I use my voice to make a difference. You’ve witnessed as I have raised thousands of dollars for the Arthritis Foundation, as I’ve shared my story openly on my blog and in local and national news stories about healthcare.  Those of you who know me best know that I love hosting potlucks – what you may not know is that I love hosting potlucks so much because I love bringing people together who would not otherwise meet.  I love creating community, introducing strangers, being a nucleus to a gathering.

Image by Brian Baker, used with permission
Image by Brian Baker, used with permission

Continue reading Helping Charis