Category: February

As we delve into February’s theme of “Health Activist Matchmaking” – our first Health Activist Tweetchat of the month will focus on something that is discussed by (and important to) just about everyone: relationships.


Relationships are hard work – but when you add a health condition, a diagnosis, treatment, symptoms, or other health-related complications to the mix – there is even more to manage. When living with a health condition (or caring for someone who is) – how does that impact your relationships? Where do conversations about your health fit in and how do you take it on without letting it take over?


Join us tomorrow at 3pm on Twitter to discuss these topics in our #HAchat:

  • You and your condition (How do you feel about your condition? How do you keep yourself going?)
  • You, your condition, and your significant other (Whether you’re single, dating, married, or otherwise – this is a juicy and challenging topic!)
  • You, your condition, and your friends/family (How do you start conversations with friends and family about your health? How do you handle their questions/concerns?)
  • Talking about relationships and your condition in your health community (What advice do you have for fellow Health Activists and patients wanting to start a conversation about relationships and your condition?)


Since this is the Health Activist Tweetchat – we’re going to keep the conversation focused on a Health Activist level by sharing what we’ve seen and done online and also by gathering ideas and suggestions for fellow Health Activists to bring back to discuss in their own individual health communities. No matter what your condition of focus may be – there is a bunch of content just waiting to be unlocked. Let’s dig in to the idea of “Relationships and…” and extract some inspiration from our chat.


So we’ll see you tomorrow at 3pm ET here:


And, if you’ve discussed this topic in your blog or community – I’d love to see what you had to say! (Link us in the comments.)


For those of you who don’t know, my past life was spent working for an oral care company that focused on natural products – so I’d be lying if I said I didn’t know that February was National Children’s Dental Health Month and that February 3rdmarks the ADA’s Give Kids a Smile Program – but I’d bet money that it’s not something most people are aware of. So I thought I’d write a post with some information about it for you to share with your communities.

The Give Kids a Smile® Program is geared toward giving children, especially those in underserved communities, better oral care and access to oral health care services that they don’t receive on a regular basis as well as identifying the unmet need for those policy makers that can make a difference.  Dentists around the country participate in the program by providing free or low cost services to families in need of assistance and in helping build good oral care habits from an early age.

In honor of the Give Kids a Smile® Program (as well as National Children’s Dental Health Month), here are a few things I bet you didn’t know about oral health:

–     Dental caries (known by most of us as cavities!) remains the most common chronic disease in the U.S. in both children and adults

–     Recent research has identified periodontal disease (gum diseases) as a risk factor for a number of chronic & systemic diseases including heart & lung disease and diabetes

–     More than 75% of U.S. adults have some form of gum disease, while advanced gum disease affects 4-12% of U.S. adults

–     Oral cancer strikes an estimated 35,000 Americans each year – of these, 25% will die of the disease and only half of all patients diagnosed with oral cancer survive more than five years

–     Though women are more likely to take better care of their teeth than men, women are more susceptible to periodontal problems and can suffer from hormone-influenced gingivitis


Oral health is something that’s important to patients in all conditions so be sure to promote good oral care within your community this month!

For additional ways to get involved or for more information you can visit the official Give Kids a Smile® page on Facebook (, the National Children’s Dental Health Month section of the ADA website (, or just give your dentist a call.



Earlier this month, we asked you to think about how your condition influences your relationships and how you really feel about that. We received a lot of responses – making me realize just how important this topic is to Health Activists. The challenge of relationships is, go figure, not made any easier by adding the challenge of living with a chronic health condition.

Let’s take a peak at the results and see how people voted:

How you feel about dealing with your chronic condition and relationships. (Click to enlarge)

As you can see, the top results demonstrate that struggle that I mentioned back when I explained our February Theme. Conflict! The inherent difficulty that comes with having a good relationship is possibly made even more difficult by adding a chronic condition to the mix. The work involved in balancing, handling, and understanding both at once isn’t easy either. The number one response to our poll question was that you feel “Burdened; sometimes it’s a lot of weight to carry. The second most popular response was “Conflicted, there is so much going on.” Particularly for those waiting for diagnosis confirmation, new treatments, and the daily regimen involved with managing chronic conditions (or pain) – being overwhelmed by everything makes sense. Sometimes when a lot is happening, the hardest part is focusing on one thing and being decisive. But, at least, our third most popular response is slightly more optimistic, making light of the hand we’ve been dealt, feeling “Like being entrusted with an epic quest; this is a challenge.”

What I found most interesting were the write-ins for our “Other” option. Here are a few comments that people shared:

“Bored! I get tired of explaining and people not get it.”

“Frustrated. No end in sight!”

“Apprehensive, because I don’t know how someone new will respond.”

“I feel positive thinking is the only way to battle and overcome this problem!”

“Nobody gets it and that’s ok.”

Do you agree with these comments?

This has been an important exercise – but we can’t end on a note of uncertainty or stay in that state of conflict. So let’s look at what we have here. An opportunity to pause and see there is common ground here, across conditions. The list of chronic conditions is long and diverse, and yet, this poll shows that people of different conditions feel pretty similarly. As commenter Jay said, we “need to add “All of the above” as, at some point, I’m sure everyone feels every one of the options.

Something I’ve heard Health Activists say is that they are relieved, blessed, glad to have their communities because finally they know (and feel) that they are not alone. They, now, know people who really get it, who understand. And, with the internet, they now have access to these other people who can relate. The online space has truly offered something wonderful for those who may live with a rare condition, may live far from in-person support groups, or may not be able to leave home. That’s huge. It is why support networks, health blogs, and forums have become so popular. And while you may not need one more relationship to add to your lives – the relationship between you and your community is an especially unique and beneficial one to nurture.

Why not bring back this topic to your community and see what others think? Sometimes putting feelings into words (or quirky analogies) alleviates them. What do you think your community would select as their most prevalent feeling toward dealing with their condition and relationships? Join the discussion here!

Relationships can be tough, but adding the management of a chronic illness to the mix can create a whole new challenge.

Last February we hosted a webinar about Chronic Illness and Relationships (sound familiar? maybe you attended!). The webinar was a big hit, sparking some great conversation on a tough topic that hit home with lots of our community members and Health Activists. In fact, it’s the perfect sort of content to bring back! In honor of our theme we are resurfacing the webinar in a new, re-vamped 2011 slide-show so we can all take a look at the important topics and questions we covered. Hopefully you will be inspired to bring the ideas back to your community as discussion topics!

Check it out here:

The thing about chronic illness is that it’s probably not going away any time soon – and neither will the challenges that come with having relationships. But, you know, by discussing these topics – and sharing what works – hopefully we can really help one another better deal with and navigate life with chronic illness and relationships.

Feel free to share this blog post and slide show with your community! If it initiates a good conversation, inspires a blog post, or ignites something creative for you – leave us a comment – we’d love to see where you take it and run to! 🙂

Today’s post is a wonderful Guest Post (and must-read!) by Health Activist Julia Olenik blogger at the awesome blog Reasonably Well. In her guest post she shares her experience with that third relationship conflict mentioned in our theme: your condition vs. your family (and friends). Julia offers real, honest advice and I know you’re going to enjoy reading this as much as I did. –Amanda

February, Family, and Friends

The month of February brings with it several interesting events; one being Groundhog day, when it’s so gratifying to anticipate the end of winter. Another is Super Bowl Sunday and the best excuse ever to gather in large boisterous crowds in front of huge televisions while consuming large quantities of really-bad-for-you snacks.

But my favorite day by far in February is Valentine’s Day. Why? Well, gifts of chocolate in heart shaped boxes from a wonderful hubby for many years are very, very good things. But aside from chowing down on a serious amount of high quality candy, Valentine’s day also is a great time to for me to take time to appreciate not only my marriage, but all the relationships with others around me.

When I think about my relationships, mostly I think about how fortunate I am to have these special folks around me, especially since autoimmune disease entered my life. My ties with my family and friends were certainly tested during the early days of my diagnosis. I am incredibly thankful that these vital bonds survived, and eventually flourished. But it wasn’t an easy process.

Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, and my life changed in ways that I would never have imagined. I wish that I could say that I accepted these changes with grace, but I didn’t. No, I became crabby and very self-centered. Not that I didn’t deserve to be a bit cranky: Sjogren’s brought with it bone-crunching fatigue, joint pain, the classic dry eyes and dry mouth. It also took away my job and several of my hobbies.

I was not a happy camper.

As I struggled to adjust to the enormous changes that my body was making, I became aware that my social circle was changing, too. Several friends that I had considered close began to just……fade away. My family and closest friends often looked at me with puzzlement and concern. They didn’t know what to make of me, and I didn’t know what to make of me, either. It was a difficult time, and I knew that if my ties with my loved ones were to survive, I needed to look to the wisdom and experiences of others who had successfully made this journey before me.

I found a helpful perspective from another woman dealing with chronic illness in the book A Delicate Balance: Living Successfully With Chronic Illness, (Perseus Publishing, 2000, pg. 191) In it, author Susan Milstrey Wells dove headlong into these same issues. She discussed the many ways that chronic illness may impact all of our relationships – those as a spouse, a child, a sibling, a parent, a co-worker, and as a friend. She summed up her experiences by saying:

Continue reading after the jump… Continue reading →

Having fulfilling, deep relationships something everyone thinks about. Actually going about achieving great relationships, though, is tough – especially when other things are on your mind. Having a chronic condition means managing your health constantly – when this is occupying your mind, body, and time; where does this leave those relationships you care about?

Take a moment and think about all of the connections you have in your life: your family, friends, coworkers, people you spend time with, people you have recently gotten to know, and all of those in your online communities. What role does your chronic condition play in the way you think about these relationships and how you spend your time?

(Because it’s never easy to pick just one – we’ll let you pick up to 3 of the following & write-in your own):

At the end of February we’ll announce the results and see what the most common feelings were! We’ll also discuss a few ways to build upon or combat those feelings.

Which ones did you pick? Leave a comment (especially if you wrote-in your own emotion.) Share this poll with your community! And, if you’re interested – you can also use your response here as a jumping-off point for a blog post or a discussion.

If you were to ask your community members what they feel about their condition and relationships – which do you think they’d pick?

In honor of this month’s theme Chronic Conditions and Relationships – our February HABC is: Write a Letter to Your Condition. Sounds a little strange?  It is, because you’re penning these words not to a real person, but to your disease, personified.  Inspired by the old-fashion correspondence of snail mail (or, I suppose, you could be inspired by the art of email), write a letter, a note, a memo addressed to your health.

This is your chance to tell your health what you really think of it, how you really feel … and no holds are barred in this exercise.

Whether you’re writing a letter of love (which may be a challenge) or a note that describes what you’re working on in your communities to help raise awareness for your health condition – the point is to be honest and to examine your emotional ties to your physical health. This could be a great way to check-in with how you’re feeling and work on that first relationship conflict we mentioned in our theme announcementYour Condition vs. Yourself. And, if you want to complete the correspondence – it would be really interesting to reply to yourself from the perspective of your health. What does your health think about your letter? Bonus points if you write two letters this month!

(If you need an example check out the awesome community Dear Thyroid, built around the idea of writing letters to your thyroid.)

Once you’ve written your letter, we hope you’ll share it with our community by leaving a link in this discussion in the Health Bloggers Group. We also hope you’ll post this brand new graphic in your post to show that you’re a participant in the HABC!  (Because who doesn’t like a Ferris Wheel o’ Health Activism?)

If you’re up for the challenge, you can just start by typing out the words, “Dear Health,” and flex your creative muscle!

photo credit tunnelarmr on flickr

February is here so that means we have a new theme to announce! This month we will be aligning with many retailers’ second-favorite holiday – except that we promise to spare you the saccharine jewelry commercials and obligatory heart-shaped gifting. Our theme is Chronic Conditions and Relationships – two things that affect nearly everyone but do so in individual, sometimes inexplicable ways. There’s a lot to discuss on this broad topic but, as was the case with last month’s theme, you can come here for some ideas, inspiration, and things to bring back to your community.

We’re going to look the “relationships” part of Chronic Conditions and Relationships a bit differently than you might expect. “Relationships” doesn’t always mean “romance,” and we’re touching on all different kinds of relationships in this month’s theme.   Inspired by the six common conflicts of fiction (read this Wikipedia article for a refresher), we will delve into all the assorted (sometimes conflicting) relationships we have in our lives. I’ve decided to explain our topics through the conflicts there. Here’s our look at the different kinds of relationships that we, as Health Activists, may be involved in:

  • Your condition vs. yourself – Sometimes we can be our own greatest support … and also our own worst enemies.  Living with a health condition requires a heightened sense of “self,” and it can be a challenge to assess and keep an upper hand.
  • Your condition vs. your love life – This is the relationship that fairy tales and magazines tells us is most important,  but all that pressure just makes it trickier to balance when living with a chronic illness and daily health hurdles.  How do you disclose it?  Explain it?  Deal with it?
  • Your condition vs. your family – We care about the ones closest to us (this includes friends who feel like family) but sometimes our health doesn’t make it easy. Whether we want to get extra support from these folks or just want to enjoy them and get our minds off our health – keeping the familial relationship healthy is a challenge.
  • Your condition vs. the day-to-day – Chronic conditions find their way into many aspects of life including: our living spaces, our work places, and our daily schedules.  This relationship is one that really relies on balance and mindfulness, and one that Health Activists handle in every situation, every day.
  • Your condition vs. technology – We rely on man-made innovation for so many things – some of which are very health-centric. How technology, medications, and tools interact with our health and chronic conditions is an important relationship to examine, and sometimes, to reign in.
  • Your condition vs. misconception – This is a relationship Health Activists know well. What does the outside world think of your condition? How do you deal with stigma? How is your condition portrayed in the media or talked about in conversation? How can you confront misconception, help educate the public perception, and keep your community feeling supported?
  • Which relationship conflict is the one your community talks about most often? Head over to our Community and add your thoughts to this discussion. Be sure to check back in throughout the month for some prompts, featured conversations, interviews, and other activities for you to try in your health communities.  And as always, thank you for everything you guys do.  The relationship between Health Activists and WEGO Health is a solid one.  🙂