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When Your Friend Has a Chronic Illness – How Moms with Illness Need Encouraged


Mommy moments come in all forms of days at the park, birthday parties with streamers, and gymnastics classes. All of these provide the perfect opportunity for mothers to let their little ones burn some energy as well as share in their latest challenges. As the amount of women who live with chronic illnesses such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, continues to grow, however, so does the ability to always participate in these spontaneous mommy moments.

For example, the National Fibromyalgia Association reports that fibromyalgia (FM) experts estimate that about 10 million Americans and approximately 5 percent of the population worldwide deal with illness symptoms commonly associated with FM, one of the fastest growing auto-immune diseases in the USA. When I recently went to an adoptive mom’s playgroup, just within this niche group, three out of the six of the women there lives with a chronic illnesses. Being aware of what a friend can and cannot do, and acknowledging that you know some days will have different limitations and challenges, can make a significant impact in these mom’s ability to participate and feel comfortable with other mothers.

[1]. Find out the best times of day for play-dates or activities. This will vary from season to season (weather and heat can affect it a great deal); and it also is different from one illness to another. For example, for some moms, mornings are good and afternoons are exhausting; for others they aren’t moving or out of PJs before the clock strikes noon.

[2] Be understanding if she has to cancel, rather than bombarding her with guilt. Coping with a chronic illness means that every day is unpredictable. Last week I did nothing other than take a step and my knee locked up for four days. I did all the heat and ice therapies, took extra medication and tried not to complain. But all my plans were cancelled with no advance warning.

[3] Communicate with her that you understand she has some limitations. So ask “How far are you comfortable walking today?” and try to accommodate. A two-block walk to the park may seem like miles for her and the few stairs may be impossible. I won’t even take escalators any more with my poor knees, so take the elevator with her. Don’t run ahead of her, unless you are chasing your kids (or hers!) and understand she may need to sit down on a bench for a few minutes to rest, even after walking just one-hundred feet. Standing can also be hard, so even if the carousel line looks like a ten minute weight, she may need for you to stand in line and then let her jump in at the last minute.

[4] Ask polite questions about her illness, such as “what is your greatest challenge?” Avoid telling her about the cures you’ve heard for her illness; the products you may sell that could help her; or about your mother’s cousin’s sister who has the same illness but still manages to raise five children and work full-time.

[5] Simple things that may be difficult for her. For example, if you go to the beach, ask her if she’d like to be dropped off with some stuff and save you a spot. She may not be able to plop down on the hard sand so remember to bring a few lawn chairs so she isn’t the only one two feet above the others. Most people on medication need shade and limited sun exposure. And don’t expect her to carry the cooler, the poodle, the beach toys and watch the twin 2-year-olds while you park the car. While you don’t want to make her feel helpless, and she doesn’t want the attention, be aware that she may need some extra considerations.

[6] Don’t assume that she can take care of your children unless she volunteers. Watching kids is exhausting and just taking care of her own may be all she can handle for the moment. Plus, if your kids play in the street, when a car comes she’s not going to be able to jump three tricycles and sprint to grab their little hands nearly as fast as you could.

[7] Plan activities that she can be a part of. While you may love your stroller exercise groups, and mommy and me gym classes, these may not be possible for her. Find out what types of things she likes to do and then ask if you can join her for these. Keep the activities under two or three hours; even though you may typically go to the zoo for six hours, understand that she may need to leave earlier than you. Don’t say, “A little more walking may do you some good!”

[8] Lastly, tell her what every mom longs to hear: “I don’t know how you do it. I really admire your perseverance and strength. You’re my hero.”

About the Author:
lisa1Download 40 free pages of Lisa’s book “Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend” when you subscribe to HopeNotes chronic illness ezine at Rest Ministries. Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries, a national organization that serves the chronically ill and in 2002 she began National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week.


  1. Right on track, as always, Lisa! You are MY hero!!! 🙂

    Thank you for the wonderful advice and very realistic information. 🙂

  2. Lisa Copen says:

    Thank you so much for publishing my article. If you have a chronic illness I hope you will drop by our social network, to connect with other moms. We have groups of moms with illness who homeschool, have kids with special needs, have teenagers, etc. Jill…. LOVE your site as always!

  3. […] Are You a Work at Home Mom? Posted on June 4, 2009 by Rest Ministries Are you  a Christian work at home mom? I wanted to take  a moment to say thank you to the Christian Work at Home Mom web site that recently featured my article, When Your Friend Has a Chronic Illness – How Moms with Illness Need Encouraged. […]


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