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How I Created Flexible, Remote Work While Living with a Chronic Illness

Living Well

September 16, 2020

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by Kathy Reagan Young


Fact Checked by:

Jennifer Chesak, MSJ


by Kathy Reagan Young


Fact Checked by:

Jennifer Chesak, MSJ


If you get up in the morning with purpose and you finish the day having been productive — whatever that means to you — everything in your life will benefit from it.

In 2008, I was a stay-at-home mom to two cute little girls, ages 4 and 6. I thought the exhaustion was just part of motherhood. It wasn’t until I woke up with my sight doubling that I went to see a doctor.

I saw several doctors and eventually received a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS).

The neurologist actually told me that he was glad I didn’t “work” because stress was the very worst thing for MS — and I should never consider working again. Was he kidding? He obviously had never stayed home with little ones. Now that is stressful.

Telling me I can’t do something is like daring me to do it. As soon as both kids were in school full-time, I went back to work — full-time. And I loved it. I loved the people. I loved the work.

I loved everything about it, until one day, I couldn’t distinguish between the gas pedal and the brake. I wasn’t too sure which side of the road I was supposed to drive on either.

Maybe that doctor was right. Stress really is bad for MS. I had a full on relapse. That was the end of my career — or so it appeared.

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Learning through trial and error

Being home, resting when I needed to, eating well, taking my meds, stretching out my spastic muscles throughout the day, and taking walks all helped turn my health around for the better.

I got through that relapse and “rebalanced” my life. It was necessary and I knew I had made the right decision to leave my job. But it made me sad. I felt unproductive and sort of lost.

Quitting work for my health meant that my paychecks quit coming, too. But my bills didn’t. I was ineligible for disability insurance because of the break in my work history due to staying home raising my daughters. I decided that I needed to find a way to work remotely so that I could have an income, while also caring for myself and my health.

When I tell you I tried a little bit of everything, I really did. I took a very expensive course in digital ads management, I did social media posting for local businesses, I took many, many other courses to learn how to do you name it.

I edited resumes for people, I wrote content for business websites, I sold my clothes to consignment stores. I hired an online business coach.

I so wanted to find something flexible and remote that would allow me to take care of myself and still generate an income. Instead, I was throwing money away on scam courses and bogus coaching programs.

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Learning to monetize my work

When I was waiting for my diagnosis, everything I saw online about MS was horrible. So I started my own website, FUMS, to share my story and provide support to others with MS. I wanted it to be a soft place for people with MS to land and to see that there was life after diagnosis.

I even started a podcast to interview experts and other MSers. It was all done with no plan, just a desire to help other people in the same boat I found myself.

One day, I was pulling weeds in my garden and thinking about how I could make an income from home when it suddenly occurred to me that I had assets that I could monetize: my website and podcast!

I set out to learn how to make money from FUMS, which included even more online courses, mastermind groups, a lot of reading and studying, multiple podcast episodes, and posting a ton of questions all over the internet.

Slowly, I started adding monetization strategies to my website.

First, I added affiliate marketing, which is when you recommend a service or product, and if anyone purchases something using your unique URL, you’re rewarded with a commission. Next, I co-wrote an ebook and posted it on my site. “Write it once and sell it repeatedly,” as the saying goes.

At about this same time, I was approached by a vice president at Healthline about producing a podcast for their new app — MS Healthline (now Bezzy MS). He had heard my FUMS podcast and contacted me through my website.

Sharing my story and making a living

Because my blog posts were getting some attention by this point, I was also contacted by a company that was producing a diagnostic tool for MS. They invited me and several other MS bloggers to their headquarters in Nashville to pick our brains about how they could promote this new tool.

It was on a bus after that meeting that I overheard two patient advocates talking about writing articles for various online health information sites. I tapped one on the shoulder and asked if I had heard that right: Can you really write about your own personal experiences with your disease and get paid for it?

Yes, was their answer, and a light bulb went off in my head.

When I got home from that trip, I sent out query emails to a lot of health information companies offering to share my experiences with MS. I started getting assignments and the VP from Healthline reached back out, asking if I’d consider being the “guide” for their MS app, running live chats and answering questions on the app. Of course I did!

Next came a call from Healthline’s social media department. They needed an admin for their Living with Multiple Sclerosis Facebook page to post four articles a day and monitor comments and messages. Yes, please!

Other companies started coming around as well, and pretty soon, I was making good money. And I was working from bed, my recliner, the hospital infusion center — wherever!

This was exactly what I had wanted and what my health needed. I no longer had to ask for time off to see a doctor or for a day off if I wasn’t feeling well enough to get showered, dressed, and drive to work. I could just stay in bed and work from there.

It was a good feeling. I was productive, I had purpose, and I was bringing in an income, all while taking good care of myself.

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Helping others find work that accommodates their health

One day, again while pulling weeds, it hit me: I was officially making more money working for myself and taking care of my health than I did when I was working full-time for someone else. What?!

That epiphany led to another: I had to share this with others. I believe if you know something that can help someone else, it is your obligation to share it. Hence, the idea for Patients Getting Paid was born.

Patients Getting Paid is a community for people with chronic illness to learn how to find and create work opportunities that better accommodate their health.

I work in patient advocacy and I’ll be teaching about that, but there will also be information on starting online businesses, affiliate marketing, how to build a website, how to find work through legitimate online recruiters, and how to work and maintain your disability payments, among other topics.

My goal is to share my experience and my resources for the benefit of others.

A happier, healthier life

If there’s one thing I now know, it’s this: If you get up in the morning with purpose and you finish the day having been productive, whatever that means to you, everything in your life will benefit from it.

Add some income in there, too, and you have a recipe for a much happier and potentially healthier life.

Article originally appeared on September 16, 2020 on Bezzy’s sister site, Healthline. Last fact checked on September 16, 2020.

Fact checked on September 16, 2020

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About the author

Kathy Reagan Young

Kathy Reagan Young is a prominent patient advocate and the founder of two innovative organizations, and She has become a leading voice in patient advocacy, driven by her personal experience with multiple sclerosis and having founded the Patients Getting Paid membership community to help people with chronic illness find and create work that both accommodates their health and generates an income. You can also find her on Facebook.

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