Living with Chronic Disease


Try bending your fingers.

Arthritis makes it hard to bend, lift, pick up objects, even walk a short distance. Try this simple exercise:

  1. Wrap a rubber band around your first two fingers and thumb. Do the same for the other hand.
  2. Now, try to tie and untie your shoelaces. 

Imagine trying to accomplish such a simple task when your joints are swollen, your sense of touch is poor, and your mobility and dexterity are limited.


Try standing up from a chair.

  1. Sit in a chair, with your body and spine straight along the back of the chair.
  2. While keeping your back perfectly straight without bending, leaning or using your hands, stand up.

People with Parkinson’s often have difficulty doing simple things. Parkinson’s can make simple tasks difficult. Having a very rigid body can make doing things that we take for granted – like standing up from a chair – very hard.

Cystic Fibrosis

Try breathing.

Cystic fibrosis makes it difficult to breathe properly. Try this simple exercise:

Pinch your nostrils while trying to breathe through a straw for 1 minute.

Imagine having trouble breathing all the time. The thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs of someone with cystic fibrosis makes it difficult to breathe properly.



Try drawing from memory.

Huntington's disease makes it difficult to remember details. Try this simple exercise:

  1. From memory, draw a quarter in detail.
  2. Now, compare your drawing to an actual coin. How did you do?

Imagine not being able to recall what a quarter looks like... or another ordinary object. People with Huntington's disease struggle to recall information, even basic elements.


Try concentrating when you hear noises.

Alzheimer's disease makes it difficult to remember things, make decisions and perform everyday activities. Try this simple exercise:

Count back from 100 by 6s while someone is talking to you.

Some people with dementia say they hear noises and distractions, which makes it difficult to concentrate while trying to complete a task.



Try to use a fork.

Pick up a ten-pound weight. Imagine it’s your fork and movie it from your plate to your mouth 10 times repeatedly without shaking.

ALS makes it difficult to comb your hair, pick up a pen, or swallow. As the disease progresses, many tasks become very difficult. Imagine having a hard time doing even simple things, then not being able to stand or walk, and then not being able to swallow your food.


Self-diagnosis test.

Breast cancer can be difficult to detect through a self-exam. Try to guess:

Using the molding clay, form a ball that you think resembles the size of a lump from:

  1. A self-exam
  2. A physical exam conducted by a health care professional
  3. A first mammogram
  4. Regular mammograms

Did you guess correctly? Imagine the questions and concerns that would arise if you or a loved one were diagnosed with cancer.


Try to determine if your glucose levels are high.

Take an A1C diabetes stick to see healthy or high glucose levels. You may feel fine, but changes in the bloodstream can lead to complications down the road.

Left untreated, an elevated A1C level can already be doing damage to your heart, eyes, kidneys and nervous system.



Try indentifying an internal joint or muscle bleed.

With a bleeding disorder, internal bleeding may happen from a trivial injury or even spontaneously. True or false?

  1. Blood proteins or platelets that help the blood to clot are missing or do not function properly when you have a bleeding disorder.
  2. Von Willebrand Disease affects men and women, but because it can cause heavy menstrual bleeding and prolonged bleeding after childbirth, more women than men have noticeable symptoms.

All true.


Liver Disease

Try going about your day not knowing you have a damaged liver.

Liver disease makes it difficult for your body to get rid of toxins. Match the name provided to the picture:

  1. Healthy liver
  2. Fibrotic liver
  3. Cirrhotic liver
  4. Liver cancer

Imagine not being able to absorb the nutrients your body needs to keep the heart pumping and blood flowing properly.


Crohn's & Colitis

Try going to the bathroom when you are bent over in pain.

Crohn’s or colitis makes it difficult to have a normal bowel movement. Imagine:

  1. You’re excited. You just got your driver’s license. But the first time you’re on the road, in an instant you need to use the washroom.
  2. Imagine you’re at the wedding of a close friend. During the ceremony, you have to use the washroom.

Imagine how stressful it is for people with Crohn’s or colitis, who have a very short window in which to go to the bathroom.


Heart & Stroke

Try doing a task when you can’t move one side of your body.

A stroke makes it difficult to walk, get up from a chair, even dress yourself. Try this simple exercise:

  1. Using only the right arm, try to open a water bottle.
  2. While you are doing this, keep your left arm and hand at the side.

Imagine not being able to keep your balance. Imagine having one side of your body paralyzed or feeling numb.


Kidney Disease

Try coping with daily life when you have to have regular dialysis treatments.

Each dialysis treatment takes about 4–5 hours, 3 times a week. Using a weekly calendar:

  1. Schedule 3 dialysis sessions (Mon/Wed/Fri or Tues/Thurs/Sat). Choose a shift (morning, afternoon, evening, overnight).
  2. Calculate the travel time to the nearest hospital with a renal program or dialysis centre.
  3. Schedule in other daily activities.

Imagine planning your week around a treatment that consumes this much time.


Lung Disease

Try doing anything when it is difficult to breathe.

Swollen airways blocked by mucus (COPD); sensitive airways (asthma); lungs infected by cancerous cells compromise one’s ability to breathe normally. True or false?

  1. The increase in smoking among women has resulted in an increased prevalence of lung cancer and COPD.
  2. Asthma rates continue to climb.
  3. In 2013, 13,300 men were diagnosed with lung cancer and 10,700 died.

All true. Imagine having difficulty getting air into your lungs.


Multiple Sclerosis

Try reading when your vision is blurry.

Text in this paragraph becomes more blurry as you read, simulating loss of vision due to multiple sclerosis.








Over the course of their disease, many people with MS will suffer from optic neuritis, an inflammation of the optic nerve. Eye movement may bring on pain, light flashes, or other visual symptoms.​ Blurring or loss of vision is often sudden. Imagine getting through your day with blurry vision.

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Muscular Dystrophy

Try living with oven mitts for hands.

  1. Put on oven mitts on both hands.
  2. Try to pick up a compact mirror and open it.
  3. Try to write your name using a pen.

For some people living with MD, their muscles don’t function properly. When the muscles in the hand don’t function properly, using some objects can be very hard.