How To Fight Your Way Back to Health After A Bad Diagnosis: 11 Crucial Tips

Mary Jaksch

By Mary Jaksch

This is a good news story.

It’s the story of how I fought my way back to full health four years after receiving a bad diagnosis.

Read on to find 11 tips on how to give yourself the best chance of recovery.

I don’t usually say much about my health problems (as you’ll understand when you read my tips below). But I’m hoping that this post will benefit you, or help someone you know.

Four years ago, I began to have severe problems with the joints in my fingers and feet. I’ve always been very athletic and at the time I had been training for eighteen years in karate and had just been promoted to 4th Dan Blackbelt.

All that was to change…

I decided to consult a rheumatologist. Not just to any rheumatologist, but the leading one in New Zealand who works in the Wakefield Clinic in Wellingon, the capitol of New Zealand. So, I flew to Wellington and let him examine me.

He looked at my blood results and checked out the x-rays of my joints. Then he said in a deadpan voice as if talking about the weather:

“You’ve got Lupus.”
“Lupus? Oh – that doesn’t sound too good…”
“Well, Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect various parts of the body, especially the skin, joints, blood, and kidneys. You’ve now got it in your joints, but you have to prepare yourself for a bad prognosis. You may end up in a wheelchair, and some people finally die of organ failure…”
“What?!” I started to cry.
“Now, don’t get upset. We’ll try and maintain your status quo with medication. They have some severe side effects, but that’s just the way it is.”

Fast forward to now…

I’m back to weekly karate training and am doing a scorching workout in the gym each week. I’m pretty well back to full strength and health.

It may be that I was just lucky. But I think there are some things you can do to become lucky.

Here are my 11 tips:

  • Tip #1: Challenge the diagnosis.

    Maybe your diagnosis is correct. But maybe it isn’t.Make sure you get a second opinion. I went to another rheumatologist in Wellingon, a Dr. Chiu.

    At firstglance I wasn’t impressed. He has a consulting room in a small shopping center with no receptionist or nurse.

    At times he seemed to watch a TV screen during the consultation. I asked him about it, and he said he was keeping an eye on the till in the computer shop next door that also belongs to him.

    Not very reassuring, don’t you think? But it turned out that he’s a top diagnostician. Much better than the posh guy I first went to.

  • To my great relief, he assured me that it wasn’t Lupus and he diagnosed Rheumatoid Arthritis instead – which still wasn’t great news, but a lot easier to deal with than Lupus. They are both disorders of the immune system.
  • Tip #2: Do your research.

    After my second diagnosis, I emailed my friends and students about it and did some research on the Net.

    One of my Zen students contacted me and told me about a treatment adopted by a handful of rheumatologists worldwide. He said, “Check it out. A friend of mine tried it and she’s now in remission.”

    This is a treatment called, Antibiotic Protocol, and it follows the work and legacy of Thomas McPherson Bronwn M.D. He suggested treating Rheumatoid Arthritis with long-term, low-dose antibiotics.

    This treatment allowed my body to go into full remission over time.

    There aren’t many medical practitioners who know about Antibiotic Protocol. For example, Dr.Chiu is the only rheumatologist who follows this protocol in New Zealand.

  • Tip #3: Stop whining about it.

    Do you talk about your illness?

    My suggestion is to stop doing that. Every time you talk about your illness, it weakens your life spirit.

    The gritty part in you helps you to survive!  The part that doesn’t complain.

    Sometimes you may need to confide in a friend. But do that sparingly.

  • Tip #4: Don’t settle for maintenance, go for improvement.

    I was in the gym a few days ago and, at the end of a grueling session, my wonderful coach, Trevor Voyce, was helping me to stretch.

    He said,”You’re quite flexible. That should be relatively easy to maintain.”
    “Maintain?!” I burst out. “I’m not the slightest bit interested in maintenance, Trevor. I want to improve my flexibility!”

    That’s been my mindset right throughout these four years of fighting my way back to health. I suggest you adopt it too.

  • Tip #5: Get and stay fit.

    A fit body is much more likely to heal than one that has gone to flab.

    Make sure you keep up a fitness routine – no matter what your condition is.

    Even if you’re in hospital and in a plaster cast from head to toe – set up an exercise routine for the only two fingers you can move. You need to be bloody-minded about this!

  • Tip #6: Change to healthy nutrition.

    It’s important to give yourself the best chance regaining your health.

    Good nutrition is hugely important.It pays to do some research about what kind of diet is best for your condition, and which foods must be avoided.

    For example, if you suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis, you must avoid tomatoes completely. They can make your condition flare up.

  • Tip #7: Keep your mind active.

    It’s easy for your mind to become preoccupied with thoughts about your illness and future prognosis.I suffered from that too.

    A couple of months into the diagnosis, I caught myself fantasizing about life in a wheelchair!

    So make sure that you have something else that fills your mind.

    Find out what your passion is.

    Take up something new that you love doing.

    Learn. Grow. Get the picture?

  • Tip #8: Let go of negative thoughts.

    Negative thoughts hinder your recovery.Here’s a simple way to deal with them: Wear a simple bracelet with beads strung on a rubber band. Whenever you notice a negative thought, change the bracelet to the other wrist.

    Don’t allow yourself to indulge in negative self-talk.

  • Tip #9: Ask, “How will this allow me to grow?”

    Remember that everything that happens is a potential gift and can help us to grow as human beings.If you ask this question, you will find meaning in what is happening to you.

  • Tip #10: Celebrate even the tiniest improvement.

    It’s important to truly celebrate the steps of your recovery and improvement.It’s like rewarding a dog for fetching a ball: once they get rewarded, they’ll keep on fetching balls for you.

    Same with your body: you are giving it a signal to keep on improving.

  • Tip #11: Don’t buy into the martyr story.

    You might hate me for saying this, but many people actually don’t want to heal.I’ll tell you how I know this. As you can imagine, whenever I meet someone who may be suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis, I immediately tell them about the Antibiotic Protocol and implore them to try it.

    Well, the weird thing is that most don’t.

    Many look at me with a little simpering smile that implies, “Don’t you know that this is the cross I have to bear…?”

    My suggestion is: forget about that little simper! There’s a much great payoff from fighting your way back to health than there is from taking up the invalid’s role!

But what if the condition is terminal?

Well, we all suffer from a terminal condition. It’s called life. If I were to be diagnosed with cancer, I would follow exactly the steps above. And maybe I wouldn’t be able to improve. Maybe I would finally die. So be it. But in the meantime, I would have used all my grit to fight back and to claim the maximum quality of life that I can.

Maybe I would finally die. So be it. But in the meantime, I would have used all my grit to fight back and to claim the maximum quality of life that I can.

So be it. But in the meantime, I would have used all my grit to fight back and to claim the maximum quality of life that I can.

But in the meantime, I would have used all my grit to fight back and to claim the maximum quality of life that I can.

But what a Zen view of illness? Shouldn’t we accept things gracefully?

You can accept things gracefully  if that’s what you want.

Me, I’m going to fight back until the end!

I’m just not the kind of person who gives in easily.

Having said that, I’m not in denial either. I’m a realist. And I know that death will come at the end.

When that last time comes, I’ll try to go gracefully.

But until then, I’ll fight back.

The most important thing when fighting your way back to health is to tap into the huge reservoir of strength we all possess. Chinese sages called it ‘Chi’. In martial Arts, it’s called ‘fighting spirit’.

It’s the power that helps us survive. You can feel it deep in your belly.

If you follow the tips above, you will uncover and strengthen your life energy, and this power will help you to fight your way back to health.

Image of Mary Jaksch: Elspeth Collier

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  1. Anna Maria says:

    I made exactly the same experience as you did. Two years ago I was diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis, a severe and painful bladder disease which can not be treated. In the last decades I have always been on a healthy and athletic lifestyle. First, I accepted the diagnosis, got treated, but things went worse. I went to a second and third doctor, but things went worse. I researched a lot and last summer I decided to stop the therapy und tried several alternatives like acupuncture, mental healing, cranio sacral therapy, healthy nutrition The breakthrough was Fogo Sagrado followed by kundalini yoga asanas and meditation. I also underwent long-term and low-dose antibiotics. Now I enjoy full health maintaining my yoga and meditation routine and started again riding my racing bike.
    Your insights a very useful for all health challenges!
    .-= Anna Maria´s last blog ..7 Tage Detox Rohkost Programm Tag 2: Einfach machen! =-.

  2. Challenging the diagnosis is similar to what Tony Robbins did. Doctors thought he had a brain tumour but apparently in the end it was all fine. Great post btw. Love the layout of this blog.

  3. Hi, Mary!

    I think your story is one of hope and a testament to what human beings are capable of in healing themselves. I’m glad that you recovered. 🙂

    It seems I’m always the contrary voice when it comes to self healing. I’m the one who reminds others that there are conditions that cannot be healed. No matter how hard I try, I have found no way to regrow the disks between my vertebrae, or the cartilage in my major joints. I cannot find a treatment that will undo the damage that has been caused by bone grinding on bone. My distorted joints and painful muscles don’t allow me to hold any yoga positions I’ve tried, and if I do more than stretch I do further damage to muscles that knot and harden.

    Sometimes what physical hardships bring into our lives is the challenge of self compassion, acceptance, and self love. In my life, for example, I don’t say that I am “disabled” anymore, nor do I believe that I am somehow “less than” someone in perfect health. Rather, I am differently abled, and I believe my not being able to work a regular 9 to 5 job is leading my life elsewhere – somewhere that may have been “Plan A” all along and will be amazing and joyful and fulfilling in ways I couldn’t have imagined in the jobs I held before.

    I’m not saying I didn’t try all of the things you listed, and I’d encourage everyone else to follow them. I’d just ask that you remember that healing isn’t always the outcome, and when it’s not, it’s not always “bad.”


  4. Victoria says:

    When our daughter was 9 months old we knew there was something wrong. She would cry out in pain when we got her out of bed in the morning. Her pediatrician kept assuring me that nothing was wrong and it was just 1st mom nerves.

    We switched peds. No problems found.

    On our 3rd try, our wonderful doctor actually listened and said “Mom always knows.” After several tests our daughter was diagnosed with JRA – juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. By this time our daughter was 2 years old, walked with a sever limp, had a leg length discrepancy of more than an inch, and had joint damage in her knees and ankles. We were told the prognosis and it wasn’t good. Like you, we were told she may be confined to a wheel chair by the time she was in high school. But, we were also told there was a chance that she could be in remission by puberty. That’s what we went with. That’s the only thing we allowed ourselves to believe.

    After many years of meds, PT, doctors visits, steroid shots, and minor surgery, I am so very thrilled to report that our daughter is a freshman in high school. Not only is she not confined to a wheel chair, she is an amazing ice & roller hockey player, downhill skier, and a regular kid. She has no limp or other physical limitations and no one would know that she has JRA unless we told them (which we normally do not do). She has a positive attitude when she has joint pain and works with a physical therapist and a personal trainer to maximize her capabilities. Most of all, she is healthy and happy and she is a much stronger person for all she has dealt with. We couldn’t more proud!

    • That’s a wonderful story, Victoria. It’s so much harder when our kids are sick and we see them suffer…
      I love the way your positive attitude has rubbed of on her!

    • Natalie Dolan says:

      Wow that’s amazing! I thought I had it hard at 13, but for a 2 year old to suffer from it must be so hard and scary and at two they not really understanding whats going on fully with their bodies. Sometimes my son holds his wrists and says hurt and I really worry about him getting what I got, its probably just me beening paroniod because he dont say it very often and he might be saying it because he has witness me rub my wrists and said hurt, ouch my wirsts are hurting. after all they do pick up on everything we do. I will keep my eye out on him though and be ready for a doctors visit if needs be but hopefully he just copying mummys actions and sayings!

  5. ami says:

    Thank you for sharing this story Mary. For me, your story is about taking responsibility for your own health, viewing yourself as an equal and empowered partner with your doctor and other healthcare providers and doing what it takes to ensure you’re getting the right care for you. There’s an old saying, “When your only tool is a hammer, all your problems start to look like nails.” – and I think sometimes medical specialists can come to see things only through their particular specialized prisms. The patient can make a big difference in their own care by helping their medical providers to see the big picture.

    You show us all how to be an empowered patient.
    .-= ami´s last blog ..The gift of humility =-.

  6. Mary, your story, and those of the women who have commented, are inspirational. I am also on my road to recovery from a variety of physical ailments, including injuries from a car accident in 1995. Physical ailments can easily turn into emotional ailments, compounding the difficulty of the situation. Prescription after prescription, one PT appointment after another, and daily pain and headaches. I have spent much of the past 15 years searching for good doctors, learning about self care, and dealing with a variety of diagnoses…some accurate, some not. I have been able to reverse some of the accurate ones. I no longer have those conditions. Many of my health problems have, in the end, come from allergies to corn and flour. Today I am feeling well, enjoying vitamins rather than prescriptions, enjoying great nutrition, rather than processed foods, and enjoying life. People tell me all the time that they’re proud of me for not giving up. I never really felt like I had an option…but they say “Yes, you did have that option, but you didn’t take it.” I am a mother, a daughter, a wife, and a friend. When I become a grandmother (someday) I intend to be healthy and happy for my grandchildren. I share bits and pieces of my journey on my blog, but after reading your post, I think I can be more specific about my journey. It is important for those of us who have traveled the road, to share our stories with fellow-travelers. If it’s ok, I’ll include a link to your post when I get it written.
    Thanks so much for the wonderful post!
    Take good care,

  7. What beautiful sharing, Mary. I feel the fire in your words.

    The short version of my story is two surgeries for a lung problem and colitis. What helps me is support from family and friends and the willingness to slow down and take care of my body when a flare arrives. And I have worked a lot on stress in my life and, at this point, don’t have much.

    I have noticed what seems like a new-age phenomenon where people feel like if they do everything right – exercise, eat organic food, take supplements, etc, then they will be impervious to any illnesses. I have seen people shocked when they get sick, and they somehow blame themselves for not doing enough. This isn’t helpful.

    The way out of this dilemma is to realize, as you said, that we all have a terminal diagnosis. We are ultimately not in control. Yes, do everything you can to fight back, but also accept reality. I don’t think about death a lot, but knowing the reality of the end of this life opens my heart with so much gratitude and tenderness.
    .-= Gail @ A Flourishing Life´s last blog ..Your Life Is Your Message =-.

    • Gail, you said, “… knowing the reality of the end of this life opens my heart with so much gratitude and tenderness.”

      That’s beautiful! I occurs to me that there is quite a difficult balance between the my fighting attitude and the softness that happens when the heart opens. Too much fight and the heart gets hard. Too much softness and there is not enough fight. Tricky, eh?
      What do you all think about that?

  8. Mary, you made me feel small in a good way. I have never had to fight illness in such a way. But I’m sure feel like I can learn a lot from you, this post is one of the most inspiring tales I have ever heard. Not only that, it pushes me to stick to my exercise routine and also improve my diet. Prevention is also good indeed.

    I’m glad you don’t surrender, for there is no real reason to do so. Zen truly helps us to be aware and accept our life gracefully, but the final decision is in our hands always. If you choose to fight back, Zen teaches us to fight with all you have, just as you do. It is by far one of the best experiences I have ever heard. I’m glad to be able to learn from you. Many thanks!

  9. Rayne says:

    I was diagnosed some years ago with Inflammatory Crohn’s disease. It is severe enough to have forced me to restructure my life drastically. At first I felt nothing but despair and loss as more and more was taken from me. Even though I followed doctor’s directions exactly I became worse. I tried many different doctors and still there was no improvement. I was so hung up on what I couldn’t do, on having to live mostly in my house, sometimes not going any where but to doctor’s visits for a month or two at a time.
    I finally realized that as well as being handed a total nightmare I had also been handed the possibility of achieving my life’s dream. I have always wanted to be a professional writer and artist but never had the time I needed to go back to school or to devote to art.
    Now I do. I am a full time art student, online, and am finally feeling a peace that was not there before.
    You mentioned that you are surprised when people don’t rush out to try the antibiotic treatment that worked for you. You also felt that maybe they were taking a martyr’s attitude towards it. This might not be the case.
    When I first became ill I was inundated with different ‘cures’, diets, and other sure fire ways to beat Crohn’s. I tried many of them. A few of them had no effect, a few made things worse, and a couple sent me so deep into flare ups that I almost died.
    Now, when someone tells me of their miracle cure I listen politely but make no commitment to it. I do study it at length when I get home and if it looks promising I discuss it with my doctors before giving it a try.
    Perhaps the people you are talking to have been through the same thing I have, perhaps they have had bad experiences and are reluctant to try again. Maybe they feel you are giving them a hard sell and it makes them feel defensive. Perhaps it is in the way you say it.
    Also, what works for one person, doesn’t always work for another.
    I am not telling you to stop telling people, but, perhaps to have a little more understanding towards the ones who don’t immediately jump at what you are telling them.

  10. Thanks for your wise words, Rayne. You say: “I am not telling you to stop telling people, but, perhaps to have a little more understanding towards the ones who don’t immediately jump at what you are telling them.”

    Yes, I do tend to be rather pressing when I tell Rheumatoid sufferers about Antibiotic Protocol. The reason for that it that there is a time factor: Antibiotic Protocol has the best chance of success if you start it within the first year. And it doesn’t work for everyone. Only a third of RA sufferers get better or even go into remission (like myself). I think it’s worth a try. By the way, Antibiotic Protocol can also help some (few) Lupus suffers.

  11. What a great discussion. Thank you Mary for sharing your personal story and offering some wonderful, and practical insights. Using several of the methods you mentioned, I have experienced success healing some health challenges while others have been more stubborn.
    Across the board meditation, craniosacral therapy and qigong have been surprisingly beneficial. All of these address the energetic body as well as the physical. It’s an aspect of being that is often overlooked in the west. I wish everyone on this thread all the best.

    • Thanks, Linda! I had to smile when I read your sentence: “Across the board meditation, craniosacral therapy and qigong have been surprisingly beneficial. All of these address the energetic body as well as the physical.”

      That’s because I tend to bang on about meditation, but left it out of this post 🙂
      It should really be tip no. 12.

  12. Paula Mordini says:

    wow, I had to email you and say, Thank you for such a proactive, positive message. Right up my alley in regards to “mindset”, stay positive, determined, MOVE forward!

    I highly recommend a new book I was just recently introduced to titled: The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews. Have you heard of it? It provides 7 decisions to ensure success. Highly recommend the read.

    Paula ~
    p.s. YES, fight back gracefully I say 🙂

  13. Hi Mary,

    We need to hear this message and this kind of story more.

    I have Crohn’s disease, and I went through with some horrible treatments, getting worse and worse. I was feeling out of control with the disease, and with my future abilities to function. Steroids severely affected my emotions, and I had difficulty with sleep and weight gain.

    Finally–through a friend–I found a naturopath/homeopath who gave me some different answers. She also provided a more holistic approach to my disease. During her treatments, and other methods I tried, it didn’t look like it was working, but I stuck with it for nearly two years, and was assiduous in my diet, sleep, and emotional attentiveness, including meditation (as you know).

    What was important was to make careful note of small improvements, and to keep focusing on health. Automatically, I told myself, there’s more right than wrong about my health. Build on that. This gave me the sense of building towards something, rather than coping, or being diseased. Practicing gratitude every night, and loving kindness every morning helped as well.

    Long story short, I’ve been symptom-free now for 7 years. Your suggestions are right on the money, in my experience.

    Thanks Mary,


    • Hey Kirk – your story is inspirational!
      I know that you are a man of Zen, so I wonder if you could share the role meditation played in your recovery?

      • Thanks for the question, Mary. Zazen showed me where there was no pushing or pulling with my symptoms. It taught me to focus my strength when caught by distraction, or reaction to my symptoms. It taught me how to quiet and listen at almost an inch by inch, cell by cell level to my body. Subhana Barzaghi taught me body-awareness meditation specifically for this purpose.

        With meditation I could clearly see where the tendency to slip into a secondary reaction–fear, despair, impatience–started, and learned to stay with the primary, the situation as is. Meditation taught me to stop fighting the disease, but to make this part of how things are. That was necessary to keep up my diet, particularly for years, even when it seemed like it wasn’t working at first.

        • Thanks so much for your answer, Kirk. I love the way you’ve worked so creatively with zazen.

          I wonder whether you’d like to say more about this:
          “Subhana Barzaghi taught me body-awareness meditation specifically for this purpose.” ?

        • Subhana Barzaghi is one of my primary teachers in Zen, but she also teaches Vispassana. During sesshin she grew concerned about what I was going through, physically, and offered to depart from the usual zen format to introduce me to the traditional Theravadan meditation practice of body scanning.

          In body scanning you go through your body, internally examining your sensations and felt-sense. You move from the top of your head through to your toes looking at the stored feelings and reactions held in your skin, muscles, ligaments and organs.

          In the clear light of long practice you can look very carefully, and very closely indeed. Gazing inside our body we see the many subtle ways we hold our feelings in, tighten or solidify our body, and at the physical-emotional level, cause ourselves pain.

          That’s not to say that this describes all of the disease process. Environment, genetics, past behaviours are present as well. These, though, lie beyond our easy control.

          In this way attention helps us to see how we react to our condition, and how our reactions can cause further illness and suffering. Nothing more needs to be done. This is the miracle of mindfulness, that paying attention is what allows us to see, but also automatically releases any resistant or clinging reactions.

          Now THAT is a remarkable statement: paying attention automatically releases our resistance and clinging!

          I return to this if I find I am in pain, or distracted by the body’s memory of a hectic day. Normally I simply feel my body in a symphonic sense, as mixed chorus of quirks and twitches and tightness and misplaced energy.

          If I sit down after a particularly busy day, though, for instance, I may be sitting without agenda, but my body-memory will be continuing with the vibrations of sitting on an airplane, or the fearfulness of a client, or my anxiety to finish a project. Over time, as I sink beneath the choppy waves, these reactions go their own way.

          It is particularly helpful at such times to do the body scan. Even if I just take the time to scan my head and face, that is where a lot of the hidden tensions are held.

          Thanks for your question again, Mary, and I hope this is helpful to your readers.

  14. Dearest Mary,

    You are one gutsy broad! Congratulations on staring RA down and refusing to allow it to define you. Wherever you put your thoughts, your feelings and body will follow. Keep thinking improvement.

    Now I’ve got to go stretch. You’ve put me to shame.
    Much love,
    .-= Barrie Davenport´s last blog ..Practical Strategies for Dealing with the Tasks You Hate =-.

  15. Udaysree says:

    great success story!
    one has to be very careful w what some or for that matter most health care pros want us to belief: it’s chronic. i hate it! i have been told this too but i have been able to reduce my prescript medication by 50% – and working on other ways out… one of which is meditation. i cannot emphasize it enough, meditation has soooo many benefits. along with it i highly recommend the study of the mind, we are the witness. and no, we do not need to be attached to any kind of illness which most often exists only in the mind manifested in the body. it’s how we think!
    accepting an illness is ok, that it is there cannot be denied but then the next step is to investigate and see what else can be done.
    .-= Udaysree´s last blog ..Zen and Creativity =-.

  16. Mary,
    I loved reading this. Last October, I had a pain in my side. After resisting for a while (after all, I am a man) I went to a see a doctor. I had done my amateur research and thought I might have a problem with my gall bladder. An ultrasound was recommended, which I did. An hour later, the ultrasound people and then the doctor were talking about a mass in my liver. A CT scan was recommended and took place a couple of days later. The night of the CT scan, I received a call from the same doctor. He left a message that said I had to get to an emergency room right away because whatever I had was bleeding. I didn’t get the message until the next day.
    To keep the story short, one thing I would say. Be careful how you research thnigs on the internet. What I had was hepatocellular carcinoma – live cancer – and the internet does not speak kindly about this disease. They give people about 4-6 months to live.
    I am apparently fortunate – at least for someone who has cancer – as I had surgery in January and the removed about a third of my liver. I went back in for a six week checkup recently and for the time being at least, I am cancer free.
    That’s actually the first time I wrote that out. Thinking about it, I have been pretty lucky.
    Thanks for the post.
    .-= mike kirkeberg´s last blog ..Brain and Body: Use ‘em or Lose ‘em =-.

    • Mike, I’m blown away by your story. Thanks so much for sharing it with you. Your gutsyness leaps right out of the page! What a shock that must have been for you. And great that you’ve had a good first checkup. Keep us in the loop, please. I’ll light some incense for you…

  17. Mary, Thank you so much so sharing your experience with R.A. Like many of your commenters, I’ve also experienced a serious disease, namely type 2 diabetes. I strongly agree with many of your points about reacting to a diagnosis, especially numbers 2, 5, 6, and 7. In fact, I’ve been able to manage diabetes quite well by diet and exercise for about 6 years and don’t require medication for it.

    However, I take a different view of talking about the disease. These days there are so many news stories about obesity leading to type 2 diabetes. They say that obesity is preventable and obesity causes diabetes, so diabetes is preventable. Therefore, if you have it, it’s your own fault.

    This is troubling for a lot of reasons, one being that there are a number of risk factors for type 2 diabetes over which a person has no control. Another reason being that blame is so unhelpful. Often I try to address this matter calmly, using my experience as an example.

    The main lesson from your post and the comments is that we all need to take responsibility for our own health. And we need to work out a way to get better or improve or to manage a chronic disease as well as we possibly can.
    .-= Madeleine Kolb´s last blog ..Right Stuff Award: Mavis Staples =-.

    • Yes – I see your point about talking, Madeleine. I definitely talk to anyone who complains of joint swelling! But I tend not to whine and whinge about my own condition. Even my partner David and my son Sebastian don’t know what I told all of you in the video – that it was so bad that I couldn’t grip the steering wheel anymore…

      I’m quite shy about public sharing…

  18. Deb says:

    Hi Mary,
    Its a funny thing. I began commenting on this AMAZINGLY inspirational post – and each time i began writing, i deleted it. I kept asking myself “should i tell mary MY story?” or “how should i go about telling her how much i relate to that post?” And each time i just kept deleting my comments because i just didnt know the exact way to say it….

    so i’ll just say that this post hit home for me in a major way. Although i feel i am constantly fighting fighting fighting – and will never “settle” for how my health is – it sometimes gets discouraging and downright exhausting – but i know deep down this isnt the way life is supposed to be and i refuse to settle for this.

    Thank you thank you thank you – for writing this blog post and giving me inspiration to continue fighting – and showing that there are other people out there who are fighting also …

    • Hi Deb, it seems to me that your story wants out…

      If you would like to share with us, then we can accompany you on your journey – just a little. It can be very lonely fighting illness. So, if you would like to tell your story, this is a good place.

  19. Sandra Lee says:

    Mary, I thank you for this positive and encouraging article. This is my first visit to your blog and I’m so glad to find you.

    Personally, I have found that illness is a profound path. In the end, whether we heal the physical body is not the fundamental question. In the middle, the physical body is the basis upon which we are able evolve, so yes, let’s take care!

  20. I was born with a hole in my heart (my mom had german measles while she was pregnant). I had open-heart surgery in high school. I also grew up with rheumatic fever & scoliosis. In school, I had to take penicillin twice a day for the rheumatic fever & wear a brace from my neck to my hips for the scoliosis.

    Haven’t worn the brace in 29 years…(after starting to have my 7 kids) my back is still crooked and sore, so I am starting yoga to see if that helps.
    .-= Sunshine Conkey´s last blog ..Payday =-.

  21. Hey Mary, I know this comment comes months after your post, but I came to it from your current fitness challenge post which I will comment on separately. Like you, I really hate to talk about my illness but as you said it is a long and lonely road. I am so touched and encouraged by your honesty and gutsiness and that of all those who have posted here that I will share a little about blepharospasm which hit me out of the blue about eighteen months ago. It is a neurological condition which affects the message from deep in our brain which tells us when to open and close our eyelids. Some people get it in the form of spasms which make them blink or scrunch the muscles around the eyes, and some find that they can’t open their eyes at all making them effectively blind. I’m in the latter group and suddenly found that my eyes were closing while driving. As this is a rare disease it took almost 9 months to be diagnosed and I was effectively blind for a year, although my eyesight is perfect. The treatment is botox injections in my eyelids every 8 weeks or so…this condition is actually what botox injections were originally used for and it was during one such treatment that it was discovered that if shots are given in the right place it also irons out wrinkles! Unfortunately these shots are not 100% effective for everyone with blepharospasm and so my vision can still be really bad at times. But I’ve had glasses made with little springs on the top inside of the frame that will actually hold the lids open when botox is wearing off. Sometimes, when they are really bad, that don’t work either…but I’ve discovered that eating apples while driving actually keeps my eyelids open…something to do with the message from the brain to eat/chew or swallow affecting the eyelids as well. Also when I’m animated or focussed intently !hey stay wide open….which is why I can still work on the laptop. Anyway, it’s a constant struggle to see, but I still operate as normally as possible. Sometimes walking the dogs the wind or the sun makes me go blind which can be scarey but now I tape my eyes open with surgical tape. I have no intention of giving up! And by the way I have gone back to transcendental meditation in the last few months as well…I had forgotten how wonderful it is and how very effective. I am also going to visit my Ayurvedan Doc and get off the rest of meds that I have been taking. I have reduced them by about 70% already through meditation. I have decided to take up the challenge in your post today Mary…and I’m very much looking forward to it! Thank you for this wonderful ‘gutsy’ post…and thanks to all your courageous commenters (is that a word!) You are an inspiration to me.
    .-= Offbeat Woman´s last blog ..A Brief Guide To Going Over The Edge =-.

  22. Hi Mary, thanks for directing me to this, i like all your points, all so true. Great to hear how well you’ve coped. Best Wishes Sarah
    .-= sarah Ketelaars´s last blog ..Dancing with Wolf =-.

  23. Natalie Dolan says:

    I was diagnosed with Athrtitis aged 13. I am now aged 28 and will be 29 in 8 months. I have suffered with low self confidence and many challenges and set backs in life as well as on and off depression. Despite these problems I am happily married (5 years this September and ten years together as a couple) I also have a gorgeous son who turns three years old in May 2011. I bless these two pieces of happiness and I have a loving, caring and support family however it does get you down when you suffer from conditions such as arthtitis and although there are people worst off you still get down in the dumps at times when you suffer from pain and stiffness and sometimes the simple things that other people take for granted like opening a lid off a jam jar becomes a big issue for you, it can make you feel depressed and worthless but you have to try your best to dismiss these issues and focus on the things you can do with ease and delegate the difficult tasks to suppoetive family and friends. Also you have to make the effort each day to count your blessings and focus on the positive and joyful aspects of your life. For me a big joyful issue that makes me feel like a have a huge sense of purpose is my gorgeous son who puts a smile on my face everyday! he makes me laugh and although he can be challenging at times, he is a major joy and an angel compared to some children. He is still finding his way in life and even though he is not even three years old yet, he has a major purpose in life that he makes alot of people very happy, his beloved family.

    I hope to create a blog at some point this year although I just need to work on my confidence and brainstorm my ideas into a action plan. Its good to see a fellow arhtritic create a useful and interesting blog such as yours and it inspires me that whatever obstacles come your way you can achieve anything or at least something.

    Blessings and best wishes to you Mary for 2011 and always!

    Keep up the good work!

    Natalie xox

  24. Jchat says:

    Hi Mary,
    I have been diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis and have tried everything to manage it – how long have you been taking the low-dose antibiotic treatment and have there been any side-effects?

  25. Paul says:

    Hi Mary,
    Thanks for this great post! Almost two years ago, I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes, which has reached epidemic proportions in the US. After the initial conversation with my doctor about what my life was going to be like (not so good), I, like you, decided to figure out another way.

    I started exercising and became a vegan. Within a couple of months, I was feeling better, losing weight, and most importantly, my blood sugar numbers returned to normal/optimal range (without medicine).

    In reading your post, two of the points hit home for me. I really agree with #4. Most people get very depressed when they are diagnosed with Type II diabetes. Many are not encouraged to turn things around. Instead, they’re given a steady stream of pills, which don’t cure but rather attempt to keep things from getting worse. I wanted to do it on my own, without pills, but I didn’t even know what was possible.

    Now, with my body healed and stronger than ever, I’m getting ready to begin training for a marathon in October 2011. I didn’t want to just maintain my health for as long as I could, I wanted to be in better shape than I had ever been. I’m moving toward that goal.

    Point #9 is so important and not often mentioned. Although it wasn’t easy, I have come to see my diagnosis as one of the best things that ever happened to me. I was able to overcome a huge issue by taking care of my body in ways that I had previously neglected. Now, I want to tell everyone about the transformation that’s occurred with me, and that’s why I started blogging last year.

    I also started an organization here in my area that brings diabetes awareness to faith communities. This weekend over 150 people who are at risk for diabetes will be tested at a church this Sunday. The sooner people get diagnosed, the sooner they can stop this illness from taking over their life.

    In April 2009, I was scared and depressed about my future. Now, I look forward to every day and am excited about telling people with this disease that there is hope for them! I blog about transformation, body, mind and spirit at

    Thanks for letting us share our stories!

  26. […] I went back to martial art training which I had put on hold for 6 years because of health issues. You can read about this in How to Fight Your Way Back to Health After a Bad Diagnosis […]

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