Do You Need That?

When you have a Chronic illness, you strive to manage it. The better your illness is managed, the better your health actually becomes. And better health equates to the best quality of life. Are you with me? Better. Better. Better. Best!

Inevitably, this management or maintenance leads to a lot of questions. Should we try this medicine? Perhaps, if we tried that supplement? Or maybe, we ought to consider a vaccine? We are literally bombarded with ads — marketing medications, vaccines, supplements, etc. They’re everywhere, i.e. television, the internet, magazines, newspapers, etc. But does that mean we actually need the product? Ask your doctor. You might be surprised by his or her answer!

Typically, if you have a Chronic illness, you are more vulnerable than an individual who is in excellent health. That doesn’t mean that you need anything and everything available. It means that your needs are based upon your age, health issues, etc. So, again, it’s time to talk to your doctor. Take the guess-work and anxiety, out of the equation.


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Last Fall, I was stricken with a case of shingles. It was horrendous — far worse than the chickenpox that I remember having in second grade. From the blisters to the nerve pain (that took nearly 3 months to subside), it was a brutal experience. Need I say, I became very focused on getting the vaccine. But, when I discussed it with my doctor, I was told to wait a year (at least). Having shingles allowed my body’s immune system to develop a memory of the exposure. In other words, it boosted my immunity against the virus. Obviously, this protection doesn’t last forever. And compromised immune systems are more vulnerable. Still, after talking to my doctor, I felt relieved to know that my body has a measure of protection against this virus. So, I’m planning on my annual flu shot instead. 

Supplements can be used effectively and abused. None of us need the latter. The American Medical Association recommends a multivitamin supplement for all adults. Are you taking one, daily? As for additional supplements, talk to your doctor. Some can be helpful, depending upon your medical history and health. Others can possibly do more harm than good. A study, published in The New England Medical Journal in 2015, found that adverse effects of supplements were responsible for over 22K emergency department or ED visits every year. And approximately 10% of these cases resulted in admission to the hospital!

Call me old fashioned, but … prescription medications just aren’t meant to marketed like shampoo to the general public. Anyone who is chronically ill is a sometimes desperate and vulnerable consumer. Yet, this is the reality that we now live in. If you feel that your current medication isn’t working well, discuss this with your doctor. Talk about your options. Please, don’t walk into his or her office with a specific ad or medication in mind. What may work for some, may be totally wrong for you. And, by all means, take your prescribed medication as it is directed. Many patients take unnecessary risks with medications. It is harmful — even deadly.

All of which brings us back to the initial question that entitles this piece: Do you need that? Let your doctor, not a marketing campaign or your BFF, decide!


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After The Storm …

The storms of life effect us and teach us. Camille, back in 1969, is the first hurricane that I remember experiencing. I was nine years old. Even today, Camille remains the second-most intense hurricane to ever hit the United States. She was one of only three Category 5 storms to ever make landfall in this country. And her impact was devastating. As a young mother, my husband and I weathered Hurricane Hugo with family. My father was terminally ill, at the time. That in itself was a struggle. When the storm slammed into Sullivan’s Island, just north of Charleston, Hugo was a Category 4. We spent hours hunkered down and listening, as the winds howled … stripping away our roof. Despite the fact that we lived four hours inland, we had damage to our new home. You don’t have to live at the beach to suffer the consequences.

I have lived most of my 58 years between coastal states and the Midwest. Storms — whether a hurricane, tornado, or blizzard — are a fact of life. I have been through them all. They’re something you learn to respect rather quickly. Your survival depends upon it.

So, you monitor the reports. You dread the thought of being in its path. And you prepare, or you try to. It’s a very fluid situation, with a ticking clock. Sometimes, you have minutes. For others, you have a couple of days. Often times, with tropical systems, you evacuate. When this happens, you try your best to remember everything that you’ll need. You toss it all in the car and bug out. You wait. You worry. You pray. And, eventually, the storm does pass. Then, comes life … after the storm.


Clean-up is a hazard in itself. Returning to your home may be an issue. Flooding can require that you boil water. Electricity can be out, for days. And you may find that you aren’t as prepared as you had initially thought you were. It happens to the best of us. When it does, life can be difficult, stressful and inconvenient. But if you have a Chronic illness, it can be life-threatening.

If your medications have been exposed to excessive heat, unsafe water, etc., they should be discarded. If your electricity has been out for a long time and your medication requires refrigeration, it too should be discarded. Wounds can be problematic for Diabetics. So, please, keep your feet protected. Wear shoes. Work-gloves, too. Stress worsens most Chronic illnesses. And the days — sometimes weeks, even months — that follow a massive storm are a highly stressful situation. But you aren’t alone.

Hospitals may be heavily damaged. Doctors offices are usually closed. Yet, help can be found. provides excellent information about the pharmacies that are open, or closed, in any natural disaster area. It also lists the locations of shelters as well as infusion centers. The American Red Cross responds to over 60K disasters, every year, with shelters, clean water, hot meals and health professionals. The Canadian Red Cross is equally active, in disaster responses, as are all the international branches. provides assistance with medications and/or supplies, for low-income patients. Chain-pharmacies can usually fill a prescription, even if you have evacuated to another area. So, call yours for more details. If you are on Medicare, you can get help by calling 1-800-Medicare for assistance on medications, plan information, or dialysis. The National Cancer Institute  stands ready to assist Cancer patients at 1-800-4Cancer. And the Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers information for Diabetics and others, regarding natural disasters and severe weather. The latter is provided in numerous languages.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, over 50% of the patients who were seen in emergency care locations had a Chronic illness. Approximately 70% of the storm’s survivors had one. We saw similar numbers following Hurricane Maria, last year. As a nation, we sometimes learn lessons the hard way. The needs of the Chronically ill, in and after a natural disaster, is but one example. With each season and crisis, we become better prepared to handle these needs. And we become stronger in the process. Godspeed to all of you!


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*Photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash

Should I Take Generics?

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If you manage to celebrate your 65th birthday, free of any chronic illness, by all means consider yourself lucky. More than half of America’s population is living with at least one chronic condition, i.e. Mental illness, Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, HIV, Cancer, Epilepsy, Hypertension, Addiction, etc. If you are one of those individuals, then you know how expensive and confusing it can be. Medication isn’t the sole issue, but it is a large part of the equation. And as the cost of medication continues to rise, you feel the pinch on your budget. Frustration. Worry. So, you begin to think about your options. With a chronic illness, you cannot risk doing without your medication. Though, unfortunately, some have resorted to such decisions. But you can consider alternatives. Generics offer a very viable solution.

When a company creates a Brand-name drug, a lot of research goes into its development. Once the FDA gives their approval, a 20-year patent is issued. And the drug goes on the market. When that patent expires, a Generic version can be created. Because it requires less research/development expense, a Generic costs less — usually 30-80% less!

I am not here to promote any specific company, or drug. I am here to inform. What many people do not realize is that a Generic drug is a chemically-equivalent version of a Brand-name drug. The FDA requires that Generics have the same active ingredient, dosage, safety strength, usage directions, quality and performance as the Brand-name drugs they copy. They work in the same way. And, like Brand-name drugs, they are manufactured in FDA-inspected facilities.

There are two types of Generic drugs: Generic Substitution and Therapeutic Exchange. A Generic Substitution drug is the equivalent of the Brand-name drug, on the molecular level. The Therapeutic Exchange is a little different. Think of it as comparing store-brand products with Brand-name products. It is a molecular-related substitute, but not exactly the same.

Generic drugs play a pivotal role in the management and treatment of chronic illnesses. One study estimated that the use of Brand-name drugs for the treatment of blood-pressure, in a non-diabetic patient, can cost up to $52K per year. That same patient, using Generics, spends under $8K per year. Which would you prefer to pay?

Best of all, Generics do work. I have spoken to many people, with a variety of chronic illnesses, who made the decision to switch to Generics. Like myself, they found that the Generic drug performed as well as the Brand-name drug. Health insurers and government programs also approve of their use. In many cases, pharmacies will automatically fill a prescription with the Generic version unless they are instructed to use the Brand-name drug.

All medications, Generic or Brand-name, have side-effects. There is no perfect pill, capsule, injection, etc. Finding the right medication is often a process of trial and error … searching … trying … sometimes trying again … then finding the one that works for you. And a couple of Generics, as with a few Brand-name drugs, have been disappointing. Still, the vast majority of Generics are not only safe … they are very effective!

If you are wondering about the use of Generics, talk to your doctor. Ask questions. Be candid with your concerns. He/She can give you information on the Generics that are available for treating your condition/s. You can also visit the FDA Generic Drug Program on their website. You have a choice. Perhaps, it’s time to consider making it?


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*Photo by Pina Messina on Unsplash