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Blog Title: What I Learn About Living From My Chronic Illness by Shelley Peterman Schwarz
Chronic illness changes every aspect of your life. In my blog, I reflect on my 30+ year journey living with primary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS). I share thoughts, insights, and lessons learned that hopefully will help you or someone you know. - Shelley
By Shelley Peterman Schwarz on Thursday, February 07, 2013

Snoopy the dog

When my girlfriend's dog needed medication for an ear infection, she thought she'd save a few dollars by having the prescription filled at a discount pharmacy in her neighborhood. 


The pharmacist took the prescription and told her it would take about 20 minutes to fill.  Instead of waiting at the counter, my friend used the time to go around the store to pick up other needed items.  Not longer than five minutes had passed, when she heard...

By Shelley Peterman Schwarz on Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Happy faceNorman Cousins once said, “Laughter is inner jogging.”   Funny situations and circumstances are all around us.


Once I was explaining to my son’s friend that I used to be right handed but was now left handed because of my disability. Excitedly he said, “I know. That means - you’re amphibious!”


Self-deprecating humor or laughing at oneself is another way of bringing laughter into your life....

By Shelley Peterman Schwarz on Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Shelley on a Harley motorcycleI have  gotten around in a cute and DEPENDABLE Amigo scooter for more that 25 years.  (I love my Amigo!)  So, I thought staging a picture of me on a Harley Davidson "Hog," decked out in full regalia would be a cute idea for the opening of a recent keynote speech I gave.


 (That's really me)


Here's how I opened the presentation as I motored up to the podium... 

By Shelley Peterman Schwarz on Thursday, January 03, 2013

Who needs an amusement park ride when Grandma Shelley is around?

 Grandma Shelley giving scooter rides

I love being an attraction when I'm with my grandchildren. Whether I'm at a birthday party, the park, or a family reunion, l love giving scooter rides.

By Shelley Peterman Schwarz on Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Wisconsin State Journal newspaper logoWhen I learned that there is actually a special week in January dedicated to the phrase, “Someday- we’ll- laugh- about- this,” I instantly knew the story I had to share with you in today's column. My story itself isn't very laughable, but in hindsight, it's perfect for this week. 


I am the first to admit that living with chronic health problems is often frustrating, embarrassing, and downright sad. And, trying to find humor in uncomfortable situations is often difficult. However, time and perspective have a way of helping one discover the lesson and the meaning in everyday challenges.


Take the first time I used my little Amigo™ (the friendly wheelchair), 3-wheeled scooter. I remember the day vividly, even though it was nearly 30 years ago.

By Shelley Peterman Schwarz on Tuesday, December 11, 2012

All though this happened several years ago, it's a great reminder of the importance of a positive attitude, being prepared for the unexpected, and having friends to help you when you really, really need them.


Here's the story in 3 parts....


It was a glorious fall day as my husband Dave left for the first University of Wisconsin football game of the season.  I was thrilled that I would have 45 minutes by myself before my friend Ina came over. Because the effects of multiple sclerosis have severely limited my physical ability (I have no use of my legs and dominant right arm and minimal use of my left hand), it’s important for my safety that I have people around me most of the time. So when I have even a few minutes alone, it’s a REAL treat!


I cranked up the volume on my stereo and put on a tape of (Jack Canfield’s) affirmations -- a series of simple, positive life affirming messages like, “I am a good person. I am loveable and capable. I take control of my life.”  


Then I went into the bathroom to set out my pills for the next week.  I could hear the affirmations in the background: "I surround myself with happy and successful people. I have what I need to get what I want. I move confidently through life.”

 The pill bottle on the floor by the toilet

Opps! One of the bottles fell on the floor between the wall and the toilet. So I went to pick it up. ...

By Shelley Peterman Schwarz on Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Shelley at the reception deskToday, I had a doctor's appointment.  It's at a large clinic and there are at least 6 locations where patients can check in.  As I rolled into one of the "stations," the gal looked up at me and with a big smile on her face said, "Hi Shelley!  Nice to see you. How was your cruise?"


I could barely speak!  How could she...

By Shelley Peterman Schwarz on Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Shelley in scooter leading the parade 

I know that when people see me out in public, they probably see my Amigo® scooter wheelchair first, before they actually “see me." I think it’s human nature. I accept that and do my best to put them at ease. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that even with all my limitations, I still don’t think of myself as “disabled.”  I don’t wake up every morning and bemoan the fact that I have to use a wheelchair because my legs don’t work. Actually, I’m very happy that I have this device that, for the past 25 years, has allowed me to go where I want when I want, without the assistance of someone else.  It’s my independence. 


I still see myself as Shelley, who just happens to have a disability (caused by the effects of multiple sclerosis-MS.)  I also wear glasses and have naturally curly hair.  Every day, I work hard to keep my identity where it belongs--on the type of person I am.  And then something happened this weekend that proved to me that I have been successful beyond my wildest dreams.

By Shelley Peterman Schwarz on Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wishing you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving.  Enjoy!



By Shelley Peterman Schwarz on Monday, October 08, 2012

“Laughter is like changing a baby's diaper. It doesn't permanently solve any problems, but it makes things more acceptable for a while.” I don’t know who said it but to me that quote is a perfect analogy for life with a chronic illness. It is hard to laugh when you’re grieving your losses, worried about the future, and frustrated by your lack of control. But I believe it is absolutely essential that we laugh because it makes the journey easier.


Funny situations and circumstances are all around us. Here are a few of my favorites:


I was explaining to my son’s friend that I used to be right handed but was now left-­‐handed because of my disability. Excitedly he said, “I know. That means, you’re amphibious!”


Shelley and granddaughter are dressed for Fancy Nancy Party Shelley's granddaughter dressed for Fancy Nancy Party Great-Grandma dressed for the Fancy Nancy Party

A “Fancy Nancy” Party for Grandma Shelley, Jordan, and GG (Great-Grandma)


Then there was the time that my girlfriend,

By Shelley Peterman Schwarz on Monday, September 03, 2012

A few years ago, Jamie and her family were here for a visit. After they left, my husband, David, “tidied up” while I started downloading movies and pictures of our time together.


As I waited for the camera finish downloading the pictures, I looked across the room to my file cabinet and saw granddaughter Jordan’s handy work from when we played school earlier this morning – several notes and papers kept in place by magnets she found.


The kids are so young.  What memories will they have of me? Will they know how my whole body smiles when they are around?  Will they know...


By Shelley Peterman Schwarz on Monday, July 02, 2012

When our son, Andrew, was seven years old, we had a power struggle over what he would wear to Sunday school.  My husband, Dave, and I said he had to wear khakis.  Andrew wanted to wear sweatpants.  We tried to reason with him, but he was adamant, claiming we were terrible parents for trying to impose our will on him.  Finally, Andrew left the room to get the telephone book.  As he rummaged furiously through the book, I asked, “What are you doing?” His reply, “I'm calling the Fosters. I'm going to live with a foster family!”


   He was such a cute kid when he was 7.  Now 36, he still keeps us laughing!

By Shelley Peterman Schwarz on Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My girlfriend's daughter-in-law was recently quoted in an article in the Washington Post and it got me thinking.  The article was about "letting go" and giving your child new, age appropriate experiences and opportunities to learn and grow.  The message being: I know you can do it.  I trust you.  I believe in your ability to handle the situation.  And, I think this is especially important when a parent has a chronic illness.


Learning to face challenges "alone" in those early years prepares them for those bigger challenges and situations that inevitably come along as they grow up.  Kids need to discover on their own how

By Shelley Peterman Schwarz on Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Having trouble moving as fast as you used to, giving up a favorite activity like doing needle work or using a handicapped parking placard when you shop are not particularly funny. However, putting a humorous spin on everyday observations and situations diffuses the tension and puts your problems in perspective.


I definitely don't like it when I have to be carried into or out of an inaccessible location. However, ...

By Shelley Peterman Schwarz on Monday, April 02, 2012

When was the last time you got "carded?"


Last week Dave and I went to see a movie at the theater. He dropped me off at the door so I could get in line to purchase the tickets. When I asked the ticket taker how much that would be, he said $9 per ticket. Then, I asked if there was a discount for seniors. He replied that there was for "people over 65." I told him my husband and I were over 65 and  he couldn't believe it.  So, I offered to show him my picture ID.  To the teenage ticket taker, l didn't look my age. I was thrilled!


Then, last night we went to see another film, "The Artist." This time when I asked for two tickets, the ticket taker looked at me and said, "Two seniors?" What a bummer! The high I experienced last week from last week's ticket seller sent me crashing back to reality.

By Shelley Peterman Schwarz on Thursday, March 08, 2012
I'm am getting so excited!!! Things are falling into place nicely for the New York trip and the Books for a Better Life Awards where I will receive the MS Awareness Award.  The annual event is sponsored by the National MS Society-New York Chapter and coincides with the beginning of National MS Awareness Week.

I just need to finish my ...

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