Living Abroad with a Chronic Illness Resource Page
(Updated October 2020 – Original post March 2016 )
If you have landed on this page, you are probably here because you’ve either read about my travels or life abroad as an expat. Maybe you’re interested in learning how I live my life abroad with chronic illness and immense health challenges?
Either way, I’m glad you’re here, and I hope I can answer questions about life with chronic illness.
A chronic illness is a health condition or disease that is long-lasting or persistent. A patient is deemed to have a chronic illness when the condition or disease lasts more than three months.
I’ve been chronically ill ‘officially’ since 2009. I’m a Canadian living in Taiwan with chronic pain related to Ankylosing Spondylitis, Fibromyalgia, IBS, PsA, and MECFS, among many other health issues that come with these diseases.
I’ve been blogging about my health journey as a permanent resident of Taiwan for well over a decade. I am an active patient leader and chronic illness advocate. My posts have, thankfully, reached millions of other chronically ill expats and travelers since I launched this site in 2007.
My Several Worlds has been listed as a Best Blog for Fibromyalgia in 2018, 2019, and 2020. I am also one of six Finalists for WEGO Health’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020. All that writing and hard work and event organization has paid off!
My Several Worlds – Chronic Illness Mission Statement
I’ve been sick for as long as I can remember. I was the kid in school with the never-ending ear and throat infections. If someone had a cold, I always caught it.
Plus I am allergic to everything! Dust, pollen, feathers, grass, nickel, you name it, I reacted to it. I remember endless childhood visits to Dr. White’s office for allergy shots, ear infections, and everything else that came my way. Believe it or not, the ear infections have never left. I found out at age 38 that my ear infections are related to AS.
Despite having a weak immune system, I excelled at sports in high school, and my love for yoga, running, weightlifting and dancing didn’t end until I was 36.
I stopped doing all of those things at age 40 because I was no longer capable of doing them. Today, I can’t lift anything heavier than my cat because of the damage in my spine. It’s impossible to be on my feet for longer than 22 minutes a day.
Giving up my love for athletics is one of my biggest losses from being chronically ill. I knew in 2015 that there would be days I’d have to use a wheelchair, but I never dreamed I’d end up disabled and owning my own wheelchair.
My doctors in Canada never took my complaints about pain seriously. They always wrote it off to overexerting myself at the gym. They weren’t concerned about recurring infections and rashes or the back pain I had been experiencing since my 20s.
When I was 27, I moved to Asia. The aches and pains continued to come and go in China in 2003 and then when I moved to Taiwan in 2006.
In China, I had days when I couldn’t lift my left arm. On some days, I’d lose strength in my arms and legs and it often felt like I’d dislocated something. (I know what this feels like having dislocated both shoulders and one knee.)
During my time in China and Taiwan, my pain was bad enough that I sought assistance with non-traditional methods of pain relief, including reiki, massage, acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, cupping, acupressure, bloodletting, and scraping. None of it helped, although I had some success with reiki and I believe this is because of the person who helped me. I also had success with acupressure and again, because of the person delivering the treatment. I’ve written about these experiences and linked to them.
Starting in 2007 in Taiwan, I was in and out of the hospital all the time. No one had answers for me.
A few weeks before my wedding in 2008, I had a week-long flare. I couldn’t put any weight on my left foot. It felt like shards of glass were embedded in my foot. Thankfully, our wedding day was perfect and I felt good that day.
Two months later, we were back in the hospital in Taiwan. This time both my knees swelled up and filled with fluid. I couldn’t stand or walk. My legs felt like they were going to snap in half.
At this point, doctors agreed that something was very wrong. And that’s where my journey began with life abroad as a chronically ill expat.
So that’s the short version of my story. I’ve compiled the rest in helpful links in this directory to navigate the past 12 years of being chronically ill in Asia.
How I Manage My Chronic Pain
Read my 2019 entry for Invisible Disabilities Week here.
Finding Health and Wellness in Taiwan
Alternative Treatments in Taipei
A series of blog posts about the different types of alternative therapies I’ve tried since 2009.
2007 – Cupping
2007 – Scraping
This was not my first time seeking out help from a TCM doctor. I was treated in China in 2003. I gave up on TCM completely in 2014 after throwing up for eight months straight on herbal teas and powdered TCM. Guess what happened next? All that throwing up ramped up my stomach issues.
This article was written in response to yet another woman reaching out to tell me a certain diet would cure me. I have no time for people who make health suggestions to me when they can’t even pronounce what I have. Everyone is different! What works for you might not work for me. I am an understanding person, but I am not patient at all with people who advise me and have no idea what they’re talking about. Ginger, curcumin, and juicing are not going to cure me.