February 13, 2019
For years, Rebecca Schultz, 55, has experienced leg pain, weakness and stiffness. She's consulted with specialists and endured one test after another. At first, she was diagnosed with Lyme disease. Then multiple sclerosis. Most recently, hereditary spastic paraplegia.
No matter what the final diagnosis may be, the day-to-day challenges are real.
"I'm in a lot of pain," says Rebecca. "It takes so much effort to just put one foot in front of the other."
Dealing with chronic pain and physical limitations has been difficult. But Rebecca realized she wasn't the only one who was hurting. Her daughter, Abigayle, was then in 4th grade and didn't understand why her mom was different.
"I could tell Abigayle had a lot of questions about my illness," Rebecca explains. "She wondered why I wasn't able to go on school field trips like the other moms."
Fortunately, a friend of Rebecca's recommended Turning Point. That friend was battling cancer at the time. But Turning Point is not just for cancer patients. And it's not just for patients treated within The University of Kansas Health System. Turning Point's resources are free to anyone facing serious or chronic illness, as well as their loved ones.
A positive connection
At Turning Point, Rebecca discovered a wealth of emotional, educational and physical support programs designed for parents and children. The staff recommended Abigayle start with a popular summer day camp.
"It was good for Abigayle to be around kids who were dealing with the same type of challenges that we were," says Rebecca. "She would tell me, 'I met kids who are like me. They have moms and dads who are sick.'"
Over the years, Abigayle has attended several camps and activities at Turning Point. Rebecca joined in the healing too, participating in support groups for parents and fun nutrition classes.
Abi and I have really benefited from Turning Point. The instructors are wonderful. They design the classes to make it easy for someone with mobility issues to participate. – Rebecca Schultz
Most important has been the sense of camaraderie that Rebecca and Abigayle both found at Turning Point. They realized they aren't the only people struggling with the physical and emotional complications of a chronic illness. Rebecca isn't the only single, working mom who doesn't have the energy to clean house. Abigayle isn't the only child who wishes her mom was healthy. Realizing this and learning resiliency and coping skills has brought the already loving mother and daughter even closer.
"All the instructors have such a positive outlook on life," says Rebecca. "It's important to make that kind of connection."
A new outlook on life
For people who have chronic pain like Rebecca, simple tasks require a great deal of effort and energy. As a special needs teacher at a local high school, Rebecca used to park her car and walk with a cane or walker into the building. She was exhausted before the day even began.
"Two years ago, I got a wheelchair," Rebecca says. "It gave me the freedom to live again. Abigayle and I even went shopping together for the first time in years."
Rebecca doesn't believe in wasting time thinking about all the things she can't do. "You have to stay positive and do what you can," she says.
Recently Abigayle, now 16, met with children's program director Annie Seal. Together, they decided Abigayle could assist Turning Point's team of licensed and experienced facilitators this summer. Just 6 years after being a participant in the day camp for children, Abigayle returned as a Turning Point volunteer.
Her mom couldn't be more proud. "Turning Point has been the best thing for Abigayle and me," she says.
A mission of wellness
Turning Point is part of The University of Kansas Health System, the region's premier academic medical center. Turning Point's work helps fulfill the health system's mission to enhance the health and wellness of communities throughout the region.