Deflating the power of a DIAGNOSIS . . .

I believe . . . in life there are some moments where disappointments or crisis steal our life energy away.

From my perspective, it’s like a bank account. We have a certain amount of life energy stored.

I do believe we can deposit into this account too – this just isn’t something negative. But I believe it’s a lot easier to deplete this store than it is to build it up.

One of my life experiences that truly depleted this energy store was my diagnosis of chronic illnesses.

“Karen Nicole, you have kidney failure”

“Karen Nicole, you have heart failure”.

“Karen Nicole, you have cancer.”

Those are hard statements for someone to swallow. They carry a heavy impact.

The declaration of physical disease in my body greatly impacted how I perceived myself. How I understood my time left in life. And it definitely impacted how chose to live.

Looking back I see that understanding myself as a “sick person” was devastating to my self-confidence. To the point where at my worst, I considered myself damaged-goods.

As soon as I was diagnosed, I believed I would die young, so I didn’t think of my life in term of long-term goals. I never thought of myself sitting on a rocking chair in a nursing home. I considered my late teen years as my “middle age”.

I allowed the diagnosis  to deflate me.

A great example . . . during all of the well times in my life I was a very physically active person. As a child I had dance lessons, swimming lessons, track and field and seasonal sports. After I had my transplant I completed a very physically challenging theatre acting degree; dance, stage fighting and fencing. When I was well and acting, I was in the gym on a regular basis through the week.

As soon as I was told I was in renal failure I let all of that physical activity go. I resigned to being a sick person. I lived my life as I thought a “sick person” lived.

Something very powerful happens with a diagnosis.

In my case, it was like a premonition of death. A sign for me to live life differently because death was eminent.

Looking back now, I see that I was a live person sitting in a coffin looking at my watch and waiting to die.

What sad a waste. 

I’m not sure exactly how I changed my understanding of my life . . . Now I think of myself as a person living life who happens to also have chronic illnesses. (A powerful reconceptualization of myself.)

This mind-shift probably arose through a combination of factors; an inner motivation, my re-introduction to fitness and the benefits of the fitness itself. 

I credit fitness with changing my thinking that dramatically! As it was the start in the shift in the way I thought about myself as a person living with illnesses.


Now I understand things differently. I see that nothing can be spoken over me and nothing can happen to me to rob me of my zest to live and experience this life.

This belief is fundamental now. It is founded all the way down to my soul – my most basic way of understanding myself.

I am capable and entitled to fully experience this life. And my task to is create a life for myself despite the physical circumstances that I am dealing with.

It’s like the work of an engineer. I just have to make what I have work. I might not have the same tools and capabilities as people without an illness but I can still “assemble” a life worth loving and enjoying.

I hope my presence can help remind people that no matter what “cross you’re bearing” there is a life there in it for you.

This is why I am so determined to advocate and share my experience. I remember what it was like when I didn’t feel like I had a life worth living. I remember when I didn’t think I could be “fit” and sick – really a sign of feeling normal. I remember when I couldn’t see past the denseness of my diagnosis. Those were dark, sad days.

I pray that people see my example (and the examples of others dealing with illnesses but STILL LIVING) so they can conceive live again themselves – despite tough health diagnoses.

And reclaim the life that was depleted with the words of the diagnosis.

“You have kidney failure”. “You have heart disease”. “You have cancer”.


Those words should never have the power to steal life from us.

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