Suffering from a chronic disease can be very difficult as you adjust to the changes in your body. These constant changes and loss of certain functions can take a huge toll. If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that even though adjusting to your new life and abilities may be difficult and make you angry, laughter is still the best medicine.
When I was first diagnosed, I remember finding an online support group that had a thread titled, “You know you have a chronic disease when.” The thread was filled with things like, “when your grandmother offers to let you use her walker she had after hip surgery because she doesn’t need it anymore,” or “when your pharmacist knows about you and your family and you know about hers.” Remembering that thread, this fun little list of university classes came to mind.
Walking Assistance 101 – This course is designed to introduce you to all the amazing and stylish walking accessories on the market today and teach you how to use them. From those fancy bright colored forearm crutches that look like ski poles to the fantastic walkers with the built-in resting seat. This course will show you all there is to offer. Walking with one of these assistance devices may look easy, but it will take practice. The final for this class will require you to walk a small obstacle course without knocking any of the bright orange cones down or falling. Prerequisite: Falling 101
Falling 101 – While the idea of a class in falling may seem a bit odd, learning how to fall is a core part of graduating from Chronic Disease University. You will learn there are many ways to fall that you didn’t know about. Occasions of falling UP stairs, tripping over nothing, and falling while walking on a flat surface with no obstacle. This course will also provide you with tips on how to fall safely and avoid creating a black and blue body of bruises that you must try to explain when wearing shorts and a t-shirt because your temperature won’t regulate and even though it is only forty degrees outside, you are having hot flashes and sweating. Concerned citizens don’t fall for the line “oh I walked into a door or fell up the stairs” when they ask how you got the bruises and this class will teach you how to avoid those questions.
Housekeeping 101 – This course will teach you that it is ok if your house does not look perfect. If you are in the middle of a flare and your body is just not working, this course will help you to understand that it is ok if there is a week’s worth of dishes in the sink and you can’t get to them. Just remember to keep a supply of paper plates on hand to use when that sink is completely full and the house no longer has clean dishes. It will teach you to ask others for help and to let go of your “superwoman complex”, even if just for a day. You will be surprised at just how well your two-year old can wash dishes and take a bath at the same time.
Gadgets 101 – This course will introduce you to all the amazing gadgets that can make life with a chronic disease much easier. Things like those arm extension things with the little grabber at the end to help you reach things that are normally out of your reach or potato peelers that fit in the palm of your hand so that you are not required to try and hold things with hands whose grip has long since disappeared. This course also includes a development center where we work to create new gadgets. Things like a tool to allow us to button our pants or shirts so we can wear something more stylish than sweat suits on bad days.
Wheelchair Obstacles 101 – This course is designed to get you to where you can traverse just about any obstacle course without knocking things over, running over your best friends foot, or having the battery run out and leave you stranded. The final obstacle course for this class will take place on the day after Thanksgiving at your local department store. If you can successfully wheel your way through that, you will have no problems in your everyday routine. For practice we will also have wheelchair obstacle races. All winners will receive shiny colored stickers to decorate their chair on wheels.
Steroid Munchies 101 – Many of the chronic diseases that women like me suffer from cause swelling and pain, and we are very often prescribed steroids to reduce the swelling. This course will cover the information that your doctor forgot to warn you about. When the average person thinks about steroids, they think of athletes using it to bulk up and get into shape. Well, if you are taking steroids to control issues related to a chronic disease, the idea of exercising and being physically fit is probably not on the top of your list. However, the idea of bulking up is still sure to happen anyway. What they don’t tell you is steroids cause extreme munchies and if you can’t exercise, that bulk comes on as fat. This course will help you avoid the munchies by finding ways to confine you and not allow you into the kitchen for late night kitchen raids. It will also provide guidance on creating a closet organized by size; pre-steroid sizes and post-steroid sizes.
Included in the price of this course are locks for kitchen cabinets and fridge/freezer. For an additional cost, the professor can be placed in charge of the keys for you.
Organization Within the Fog 101 – While this course may sound more like a class for meteorologists, it is very far from it. Many chronic diseases cause what is affectionately known as brain fog. I refer to it as “sometimers”; sometimes I remember, sometimes I forget. This course will cover tips and tricks to help you remember things like why you got up and went to the kitchen only to forget what you went in there for. The cost of this course includes a year supply of post-it notes for you to use as reminders wherever you may need them.
Medications 101 – For those suffering from a chronic disease, medications can become an issue. While medication side effects can be a problem, this course focuses more on the administration of the medications. We are aware that many with chronic diseases must consume large amounts of medication throughout the day (My record was 36 pills a day and a shot once a week). We all know that these medications must be taken at different times (for example take this pill 3 times a day, this one 4 times a day, another one 2 times a day, etc.). Doctors make it a point to mess with us when it comes to our medications. I think they believe this is their way to get back at us for all those late night calls with weird symptoms.
Medications 101 is a course designed to try and get your pills organized and make administration easier. This includes tips like delivering a note to the pharmacist on bright neon paper to be put on your file to remind them NOT to put those childproof lids on your meds. Asking your children to open your pills because you can’t is not a good thing to have to rely on. The course also includes a workshop where you can build and create a pill organizer box that will work with your pill schedule, because we all know they don’t make one that will work well enough for all our pills and the different times of the day we must take them.
Living with a chronic disease is sometimes filled with many daily battles that most “normal” people can never even begin to understand. This is why I think so many of us find that there are some days when humor is our best medicine. Hopefully these Chronic Disease University class descriptions and my attempt at some chronic disease humor give you at least a little laugh for today. Just remember, no matter how bad your day might be, or how high your pain level has reached, take a minute to find the humor in something and maybe, just maybe, you might find a moment of relief.
Would love to hear other course ideas you might have too!