Each week we are highlighting a different Chronic Illness Bloggers’ member as our ‘Blogger of the Week‘. As well as getting to know each other better, we hope that you enjoy this series and that you find the interviews with each member to be insightful and helpful.
This week our blogger of the week is Sue of Living with ME/CFS.
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I am 51, with two young adult sons, and I have been married to my husband for 27 years now, so we are experiencing the beginnings of an empty nest. I am a freelance writer, specializing in topics related to travel, outdoors, health, family, and books and other media reviews. This is my second career. My background is in chemical engineering, but I wasn’t able to go back to the environmental management consulting work I used to do after I got sick.
Eleven years ago, I started two blogs, one on living with chronic illness and one about books. I got ME/CFS in 2002, and both of my sons got it two years later. One recovered after 10 years of mild illness, and the other still has ME/CFS plus 3 tick infections, but he is in college part-time.
I have been diligent about keeping up with research and trying new treatments, so my older son and I both function fairly well for people with these illnesses. I love to read (hence the book reviews and book blog!) and to write and talk about great books. Our family loves the outdoors and loves to travel, especially road trips across the US to state and national parks with our little camper.
2. What is your blog called and how do you define your blog’s purpose?
My chronic illness blog is Living with ME/CFS. My focus is on LIVING, not just surviving, with chronic illness. I write about the latest research and treatments that have helped our family because part of making the best of a life with chronic illness is improving your physical condition as much as possible. But I also write frequently about inspiration and the emotional side of living with chronic illness – finding joy in every day, setting and achieving reasonable goals, and coping with the many challenges of chronic illness.
3. How long have you been blogging and why did you start?
I have been blogging for over 11 years. I started both of my blogs (the chronic illness one and the book one) in February 2006.
4. How often do you post? What made you decide to post on this schedule?
I post on the chronic illness blog about 3-4 times a week. I usually write a Weekly Inspiration post on the weekend. I often write movie and TV reviews at the start of the week (Movie Monday and TV Tuesday) because these are some simple joys that are in reach for almost all of us. During the week from Wednesday through Friday, I usually post once or twice on a topic of interest to my readers, often an update on new research, a post about some sort of treatment approach that has helped us, or an announcement of an upcoming webinar or event.
My most popular posts over the years are definitely those focused on effective treatments for ME/CFS. Most doctors – in fact, all but the top experts – are uninformed about how to treat ME/CFS, and many will tell their patients that there are NO treatments. When you have ME/CFS, you have to educate yourself – and often your doctors – in order to get real medical treatments that will help you improve, so I try to perform that service for my readers – teaching them about various aspects of our very complex disease and the treatments that can help bring improvement in physical condition and quality of life.
5. Do you feel blogging has benefitted you? If so, how?
Absolutely. I started blogging simply to share my experiences – reaching out into the world and hoping to find a few others with the same illness. I was stunned by the response – so many thousands of people all over the globe with the same illnesses we have and struggling with the same issues. Although I started to reach out to others, I have found that everything I give to others comes back to me two-fold. The blogging and illness communities are very supportive, and I have “met” people from all over the world and made many friends over the years.
My blog was the starting point for other efforts to reach out to others, including starting a local support group for families whose kids have ME/CFS and related illnesses and starting two Facebook groups, one for parents with sick kids, teens, and young adults and another one for the kids & teens themselves. Through the local group and these online groups, I have been able to reach many more people. I have helped them, but they have helped me and my family as well. The warmth and support of these communities is amazing.
6. Why do you feel it’s important to blog about chronic illness?
For three reasons: To help people find each other and create communities. Before I started my blog, I was very isolated and didn’t know anyone else with this disease. Now I know thousands of people all over the world! There are still so many people out there, lonely and isolated, who need to find that support.
Secondly, to share information. As I said earlier, there are very few doctors who know even the basics about ME/CFS and how to treat it. Most mainstream doctors don’t understand how to properly treat Lyme disease and other tick infections, either. My blog is a way to disseminate information, to educate patients, and to help people find their way to treatments that can help them.
Finally, to spread joy and positive approaches to living with chronic illness, helping others who are chronically ill to see that they CAN still live their lives and find joy.
7. What are your top 3 blogging tips for other bloggers?
1. Provide high-quality content. All the bells and whistles and pretty images won’t matter unless your content is valuable and additive.
2. Connect with your readers in multiple ways. I have found that comments on my blog have dropped way off in recent years, but more people are interacting and commenting on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. Just having a blog is no longer enough.
3. Be consistent. Blog readers like when they can rely on consistency, like weekly features, and it helps to bring readers to your blog if they know you post on certain topics certain days.