More MS news articles for May 2002

Chronic Illness Can Teach Art of Living

May 01, 2002
Buffalo News
HENRY L. DAVIS News Medical Reporter

For David Spero, one question has stuck in his mind while helping patients cope with chronic illness: What keeps so many people who suffer from debilitating medical conditions from taking better care of themselves?

If he knew the answer, he figured he could do more for patients. And, as a person who suffered from multiple sclerosis, he could also help himself.

The Buffalo native's search turned into a book, "The Art of Getting Well," a practical guide for patients -- and their caregivers -- to improving quality of life in the face of sicknesses that don't go away.

Spero is now a San Francisco-based nurse, writer and health educator who leads disease self-management groups for members of Kaiser Permanente, the largest not-for-profit health maintenance organization in the U.S.

He will discuss how patients can fight chronic illness with self- care at 7 p.m. Monday at Talking Leaves Books, 951 Elmwood Ave.

"Living with less stress, feeling better about yourself, having hope, making the best of life that you can -- these things cannot make an illness go away. But they can surely improve the quality of your life and make you feel as though life is worth fighting for," said Spero.

A chronic condition lasts a year or longer, limits what one can do and may require ongoing care. More than 125 million Americans have at least one chronic illness, such as diabetes, AIDS, cancer, glaucoma and heart disease, and 60 million have more than one condition, according to the Partnership for Solutions, an initiative led by Johns Hopkins University and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

People with chronic conditions confront common problems, including loss of jobs, high medical costs that are often not covered by insurance, loss of hope and dependence on family and friends, if they have a support system to begin with.

On top of that, Spero notes, many patients are often unprepared for the barriers they have to overcome, especially if they live alone or in poverty. Others, he said, were unhappy with their lives before they turned ill.

It does not reject modern medicine. There's nothing here for believers in self-healing. Patients can't think themselves to wellness, he said.

"If you are not getting better, it doesn't mean you are doing something wrong," he said.

Spero's prescription is a recovery plan that uses common sense wisdom and actions supported by scientific studies to show how individuals can overcome adversity to find happiness and fulfillment.

"In a way, chronic illness can teach you life lessons," Spero said. "It pushes you to do things that will make your life a better one."

(C) 2002 Buffalo News