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 Rx: How to Live Well with Chronic Disease 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Mind Body Health by . View all columns in series

Heart attack often provides the motivation for people to slow down and enjoy life. Deepening relationships with family and friends becomes a first priority.

A chronic disease that restricts movement may lead some to think again about unused intellectual talents: Meg learned a new language and found a pan pal; Fred finally wrote his novel. Chronic illness may close some doors and open new ones.

Plan for the Future
Living well with chronic illness sometimes involves preparing for death. Death is feared, welcomed, accepted or, all too often, pushed away. Fear of death is a fear of the unknown; facing the fear can intensify living.

The most useful way to come to terms with your death is to take positive steps to prepare for it. Here are some suggestions:

  • Talk openly about your feelings about death to the people around you. Most family and close friends are reluctant to initiate such a conversation but appreciate it if you bring it up.
  • Take care of unfinished business. Mend relationships. Say what needs to be said to those who need to hear it. Don't leave words of love, forgiveness, and thanks unspoken. Forgive others and yourself.
  • Put your affairs in order. Make a will. Get your financial records organized. Make arrangements, or at least plans for your funeral.
  • Make your wishes known. Let others know how and where you would want to be during your last days, when you want life-support procedures to be stopped.
  • Write out a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, which documents your wishes and designates someone to make decisions for you when you cannot. Discuss these wishes with your family and physician.
Having a chronic illness doesn't have to close down your options. You can still participate actively in life, learn new and interesting skills, make a contribution, and have a rich and satisfying life.

For More Information:
Dollinger, Malin; Rosenbaum, Ernest H.; Cable, Greg: Everyone's Guide to Cancer Therapy: How Cancer is Diagnosed, Treated, and Managed Day to Day. Kansas City, MO: Andrews and McMeel, 1991.

Franz, Marion; Etzwiler, Donnell; Ostron-Joynes, Judy; Hollander, Pricilla: Learning to Live Well with Diabetes. Minneapolis, MN: DCI/ChroniMed Publishing, 1991.

Jevne, Ronna Fay and Levitan, Alexander: No time for Nonsense: Getting Well Against the Odds. San Diego, CA: LuraMedia, 1989.

Kane, Jeff: Be Sick Well: A Healthy Approach to Chronic Illness. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, 1991.

Klein, Robert A. and Landau, Marcia Goodman: Healing the Body Betrayed: A Self-Paced Self-Help Guide to Regaining Psychological Control of Your Chronic Illness. Minneapolis, MN: DCI/ChroniMed Publishing, 1992.

Lerner, Michael: Choices in Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994.

Lorig, Kate and Fries, James: The Arthritis Helpbook. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley, 1990.

Lorig, Kate: Holman, Halsted; Sobel, David; Laurent, Diana; Gonzales, Virginia; Minor, Marian: Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions: Self-Management of Heart Disease, Arthritis, Stroke, Diabetes, Asthma, Bronchitis, Emphysema & Others. Palo Alto, CA: Bull Publishing Co., 1994.

Pitzele, Sefra Kobrin: We Are Not Alone: Learning to Live with Chronic Illness. New York: Workman Publishing, 1986. Practical, firsthand advice on how to cope with chronic conditions.

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 About The Author
David S. Sobel, M.D., M.P.H., is a practicing physician in adult medicine and Medical Director of Patient Education and Health Promotion for Kaiser Permanente Northern California. He is physician lead for the......moreDavid Sobel MD
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