The Ministry of Lisa Copen

Lisa Copen, Founder of Rest Ministries which serves the chronically ill, shares about mothering, illness, ministry and more.

Oprah and Dr. Oz Talk to Celebrities About “After the Diagnosis”

montel

Tuesday, March 17th Oprah’s show will feature an interview with Montel Williams about living with chronic illness and they will be joined by the well-known physician Dr. Oz. This is not an endorsement of any kind for Oprah or her television show, but I am eager to see what this episode reveals regarding living with illness, and am glad to see an illness that is invisible being represented too. The preview also shows it will feature Scott Hamilton and Fran Drescher.

You can comment on the program now, or after it shows at her forum at Oprah.com (you must first register). If you feel comfortable doing so I encourage you to express what it’s like to live with a chronic illness. It’s no secret I would love for her to be aware of National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week, and for her to see that nearly 1 in 2 live with illness—quietly–not just the celebrities that are willing to speak out.

Here is what I submitted to the forum. It is waiting approval (and I’m not sure it will make it through or not.)

Everyone copes with a chronic illness in the best way he or she knows how at the time. I have lived with rheumatoid arthritis since the age of 24 (16 years now) and like many people who are posting here, I just take one day at a time. Right now I have been in a new “season” of my disease, off Humera since Aug 2008 because I ended up with the flesh-eating bacteria in a wound. Extra prednisone and other meds are keeping me going–but just barely.

As founder of National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week, I am eager to see what this show entails. As a long-time viewer of Oprah through the years, I applaud her efforts to finally talk about the emotional impact of invisible illnesses. (MS can be invisible for years and then can become “more visible” as the disease progresses, liike my RA and many other illnesses.)

Many of us may be frustrated if Montel shares experiences that are different than are own. I see posts that express that Montel is a bit whiny about his experience of “fighting for his life” while living with this disease.

But a couple points: One, he isn’t alone in his experience and will be encouraging many people who feel alone and isolated in their feelings of suicide. According to various studies, depression is 15-20% higher for the chronically ill than for the average person and physical illness or uncontrollable physical pain are major factors in up to 70% of suicides—over 50 % of the people being under 35.

Secondly, I think the honesty and vulnerability he expresses (as seen in the brief preview clip) are vital so that more people can be aware of “the face” of invisible illness. Let’s face it: when people like Montel Williams or Michael J. Fox (who is on the cover of Good Housekeeping this month) speak out, it gives illness a face — and a young one at that! Something those of us under 60 should appreciate.

It’s a nice reminder to healthy people that there are many of us who “look fine” but who are not, and who can legally park in the handicapped parking spot when necessary (even when we emotionally don’t want to!) Over 133 million people live with chronic illness, about 1 in 2 in the USA and about 96% of these diseases are invisible.

I have always liked Dr. Oz and am glad that we can hear from him on the topic of illness, perhaps even some of the emotions behind it. Rather than just sensationalize Montel’s experience, I think it’s vital that the audience hear from a well-respected physician on what you can do after the diagnosis when the illness begins to affect all areas of your life, as well as that of your family.

Thank you for taking the time to let people know about Invisible Illness Week. This year it will be September 14-20, 2009 and we are planning for it right now! We are eager to see how we can spread the word even more effectively this year and you make a huge difference!

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1 Comment»

  Robert Groth wrote @

Hi Lisa:
Montel is an inspiration to all of us, especially with seeing him expose his vunerability on television.
I was amazed to see that one of the ways he deals with pain is through imagination. Placing himself in a wonderful place with memories which take him away from the dark place of MS.
Robert Groth
http://www.conquerms.com


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