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How to Control Your Chronic Illness and Pain

Exercise and Nutrition
Author name: Lee Health


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It is one thing to break a bone or tear a tendon. These ailments, while unpleasant certainly, can be treated and healed. Before you know it, you are back to your old self, playing pickleball or golf again.

But it is quite another thing to live with chronic pain or chronic disease. Diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia and other chronic conditions can leave you feeling powerless and overwhelmed. Life can become a daily slog through dispiriting pain and illness.

Adrian Pfeffer knows the feeling all too well. But after learning to self-manage her Type 2 diabetes and the pain of a damaged disk in her back, she’s taken control of her chronic conditions.

Or, as the 73-year-old Fort Myers resident triumphantly puts it, “I got my fist in the air because I am in charge again. That’s because I’m more knowledgeable about my ability to control my illness and pain, thanks to the workshops.”

Adrian is referring to the two programs that Lee Health Solutions offers, supported by Healthy Lee, which educate people with different chronic health issues on how to manage their conditions and live their best life.

You might call Adrian a “double winner” because she completed both programs: the Chronic Pain Self-Management Education Program and the Chronic Disease Self-Management Education Program.

In fact, you might even call her a “triple winner” because she found the workshops so rewarding that she trained to become a certified facilitator of them.

“I found the workshops so empowering,” Adrian says. “Because I knew there was a need for facilitators, I signed up. I’m a firm believer that when you help others, you help yourself. What’s also been wonderful is that I learn something new with each class I facilitate.”

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Three Critical Components

Registered nurse Sharon Krispinsky, RN, CDCES, is Lee Health’s Chronic Health Program coordinator. She says the difference between the two workshops “is that we teach self-management tools related to managing any chronic health condition in the disease workshop. In the chronic pain program, we teach tools that specifically address the self-management tools for chronic pain conditions.”

The programs feature three critical components: action planning, problem solving and decision-making. 

“Each week, we develop an action plan, similar to goal setting,” Sharon explains. “Participants work on meeting their goals during the week. Then at the next meeting, we discuss our progress with meeting our individual goals and problem-solve if there are barriers.”

The Lee Health workshops are a Self-Management Resource Program with the Self-Management Resource Center. 

Originally developed at Stanford University, the workshops take place virtually or in person. Each program runs for six weeks, and each class meets once a week for two to 2.5 hours.

“People with different chronic health problems are encouraged to attend,” Sharon says. “The workshops are facilitated by two trained leaders, one or both of whom are non-health professionals with chronic health conditions themselves, like Adrian.”

‘A light bulb went on’

Adrian, a Chicago native, worked as a regional manager for numerous airline carriers in the Midwest before relocating to Southwest Florida in 1999.  Years of wrestling passenger suitcases took their physical toll, resulting in a damaged disk. She also developed Type 2 diabetes along the way.

After hearing about the workshops from a dietitian during a visit to Lee Health SolutionsLee Health Coconut Point in 2020, Adrian signed up for chronic disease and chronic pain self-management workshops.

By the fifth session in each program, Adrian says a “light bulb went on.”

“Like many other class participants, I’d become more knowledgeable about my ability to control my illness and pain. That’s when I accepted the program that I realized I have the power to make decisions about my health,” she says. “The light bulb is what it’s all about: how to live with my chronic conditions and that I can control how I live with them.”

Adrian pauses, then adds: “The workshops don’t make anything go away. They make you understand your illness and pain. Now, I see it all the time in the classes I facilitate. Right around the fifth or sixth class, I see the lightbulb go on in the participants. It’s been wonderful to experience and see happen in others like me.”

The workshops are designed for people 18 years or older with chronic health or pain conditions to help them learn ways to better manage their chronic conditions and the related symptoms. 

Upcoming virtual workshops begin next month. Register now!

  • It's All About You Chronic Disease Self-Management Education Program

To register, visit here or call 239-424-3121.

  • Chronic Pain Self-Management Education Program

To register, visit here or call 239-424-3121.

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