When Family and Friends Have a Chronic Illness — Part Two

August 14, 2013
What can you do to support a friend who has a chronic illness?


This is the second of four posts on a relationship I had with Ivajoy, a friend and colleague who is now 84 and totally blind. The posts are designed to show you the various phases that a relationship goes through when one of the people develops a chronic, challenging illness.If you have not read the first post in the series, I suggest you read When Family and Friends Have a Chronic Illness — Part One.


Old fashioned bouquetI was impressed with Ivajoy’s generosity toward Olive. Not many people would have been so giving. Of course, I knew that Ivajoy got a great deal from their friendship and who am I to say how someone else should spend their money?

Then, about fifteen years ago, a strange thing happened. Ivajoy had lunch with me in Pasadena. By the time she drove to her home in Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley, she had become almost blind in the left eye from a broken blood vessel. She went to her doctor and he said there was nothing they could do about it.

It was not until a long time later that I learned she did not even think of getting another opinion. She had been taught that doctors knew best. However, from what I have since learned, there is a good chance that antibiotics might have helped.

Of course, we don’t know for sure; all we know is that she rapidly lost sight in one eye. The doctors said she didn’t need to worry because she still had good vision in the other eye. No reason to think that one day she would lose sight in that eye as well.

She and I continued talking periodically by phone, and she would come to Pasadena or I would drive to Sherman Oaks. Since we were both therapists, we often discussed therapy and theories about growth and development. We had differences of opinion on some of the esoteric theories she favored, but I was interested in understanding why people found those ideas attractive.

Ivajoy was very helpful when I was writing my books. I would send her chapters that she would critique, or I would read her sections of chapters over the phone. She would often point out something I hadn’t noticed and, in reading the material out loud, I would discover grammar and spelling errors I had missed. Most of all, her enthusiasm for my writing gave me the courage to keep at it.


For about ten years, I continued to live a full live with clear sight in only one eye. Of course, I adjusted my driving a little, such as avoiding night driving, but otherwise I did all the same kinds of things I had done before.

Although I often brought Olive to the house in Big Bear, sometimes I brought Arlene and other friends. It was always fun to take them for a ride in a boat I co-owned with two friends who also had a cabin in the area.

Unfortunately, one day when Arlene and Olive were visiting with me in Big Bear, Olive had a very hard time with the altitude because of her high blood pressure. Going to the mountains was no longer an option for her.

This was devastating to me and I lost interest in maintaining the mountain retreat, since she was my favorite guest. So I sold it and hunkered down in Sherman Oaks, seeing clients in my home and getting together with friends whenever I could.

As I said, I thought of the condo in Leisure World as my retirement home and suggested to Olive that we could one day live there together. She had a very difficult time with the idea. She had been independent her whole life and wasn’t keen to share it in her last years. So I dropped the subject because my friendship with Olive was more important than sharing a home in retirement.

Instead, for many years she periodically drove the forty miles to Sherman Oaks and I drove down to see her. When she could no longer drive, I continued to drive down there or her friends would drive her to my house. And always she and I would have long phone conversations.

As things turned out, living with Olive would not have been a good idea because a small tumor was found next to my right eye and my life turned upside down.

See the next installment of When Family and Friends Have a Chronic Illness next Wednesday.

Did you enjoy this post?
Here are a some related posts from this blog, and articles from the Support4Change website:


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