Chronic Disease & Illness

This page features stories focusing on particular chronic diseases, such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, cancer, obesity, heart disease, and mental illness. Listen to these stories, visit our Featured Stories page, or search for stories by topic or by location.


Debbie Higgs

My name is Debbie, and I am a yoga practitioner and teacher. I maintain a healthy lifestyle that focuses on clean eating, exploring the outdoors, and yoga. Most would assume from all physical appearances that I am a healthy woman in her mid-twenties, but I have a hidden disability.



Diana – La Jara, CO

Diana - La Jara, CODiana, of La Jara, describes her experience with chronic ovarian cysts. She wanted to be as strong as her family, and developed an impressive pain tolerance so she could continue running. Although her doctors have agreed birth control would help, Diana can’t afford the medication and has to live with the uncertainty and pain.

“My family is all really tough…all of them. My dad’s a farmer and he’s like the strongest guy I’ve ever seen. I wanted to be as strong as my family.”


Nancy – Salida, CO

Nancy_SquareNancy, a resident of Salida, CO, shares her story of developing and receiving treatment for Guillain–Barré syndrome. Within days, Nancy went from leading an active lifestyle to being completely paralyzed.  She describes her emotional experience on the road to recovery.

“When I was at the first hospital it was like a nice big round room and all glass windows and I could see the nurses’ station and I was comfortable there…But then, at the second hospital it was more private and the doors were closed and I could see anybody and I was afraid and I was upset and I was depressed.  I just couldn’t understand what was going on.”


John – Chaffee County

John_SquareJohn, a resident of Chaffee County, discusses his son’s lifelong condition of cystic fibrosis.  He explains that while his son has not been able to receive a lung transplant he has been able to lead a fulfilling and active life.

“He has surprised [the doctors] a whole lot of times because he’ll get way down and then he’ll snap back up.  So, we’re hoping that that rubber band keeps on working and he stays alive for longer than the next year.”


Jonathan – Denver, CO

Jonathan, a young man living in Jonathan - Denver, CODenver, describes his experience supporting his fiancé as she battled Lyme disease. It is a rare disease in the Rocky Mountain region and there are a limited number of providers able to provide adequate care for treatment.

“My perception was that the doctor would kind of control the path of the care…actually that was not the case.  Looking back at it now the doctor kind of took a stab at what what he thought was going on but didn’t really follow through on that.”


Carolyn and William

Carolyn & William – Chaffee County

Carolyn_William_SqaureCarolyn, a resident of Chaffee County, was in need of finding a provider that could help rehabilitate her body.   She is referred to William, a massage therapist in Chaffee County, and not only does she begin to regain physical mobility but she experiences personal growth.

William: “One day Carolyn said to me, ‘William, why do you work so hard on me?’…and I said, ‘Carolyn, I believe in you!’ And she came back with the zinger…
Carolyn: “My response was, ‘Well, you’re making me start to believe in myself.”


Sharon – Castle Rock, CO

SharonASharon of Castle Rock shares her experience responding to her husband’s sudden heart attack.  She speaks about the importance of having family and friends supportive and present throughout such a crisis.

“What I’ve discovered about myself is that I’m not doing stuff alone.  I’m not hesitating, you know, there are people in my life for a reason and I’m like all hands on deck…so, it’s reassuring and it’s calming.”


Sandie – Ft. Collins, CO

Sandie - Fort Collins, CO

Sandie, of Fort Collins, shares her personal transformation story. After years of yo-yo dieting and unhealthy habits, Sandie was able to lose more than 50 lbs and get off both her cholesterol and blood pressure medication. With her employer’s support, a weight counselor, friends and family, and a trainer, Sandie is supported on her journey to wellness.

“It took me several years to decide that I wanted to really do something about my weight… I found the quick fix wasn’t ideal for me.”


Deb – Colorado Springs, CO

DebCS_SquareDeb, of El Paso County, spent years experiencing pain. She worked unsuccessfully with medical staff who were unable to discover the root of her illness. And as she experienced, they failed to take the right measures to support her.

“There was another clinic that I went to that they would literally give you 15 minutes and you could only talk about one symptom or one thing that was wrong that day.  You couldn’t say, “I have a migraine and I have back muscle spasms.”  You would have to make another appointment and they would literally cut you off at 15 minutes.”


Clint – Fort Collins, CO

Clint - Fort Collins, CO

Clint, a City of Fort Collins employee, shares his journey to a healthier lifestyle after being diagnosed with high blood pressure and cholesterol in his twenties.

“Because, with me, you couldn’t have forced me to do it until I was ready…and for me it was really being scared.  It was like, I can’t believe in my 20s, I’m on blood pressure medication, and they’re saying stroke and heart attack in my 30s.  It scared me.”


Chris – Colorado Springs, CO

Chris - Colorado Springs, CO

Chris is a Vietnam veteran with multiple serious health conditions including hearing loss.  He moved to Colorado Springs and immediately found himself needing medical assistance. He shares his experience navigating various health care settings in order to become healthy and work again.

“When I came to Colorado I had had a stroke, quad bypass, and I had lost my hearing and I had lost my job because of all of it, so I was in pretty bad shape.”


Brittany – Colorado Springs, CO

Brittany - Colorado Springs, CO

Brittany, a single mother in Colorado Springs, shares her story of receiving treatment for free through the aid of a local organization. After giving birth five years ago, Brittany developed a painful hernia that she was unable to have treated. The necessary medical procedure was too expensive for her to afford, but Brittany’s clinic helped her get the operation so she could continue to provide for her family.

“I would always worry what if something happens to me, what’s going to happen with my kids…  Life is a lot more peaceful.”


Daniel – Denver. CO

Daniel, of Denver, CO, shares his and his wife’s health story. At five months pregnant, they were struck by devastating news. Daniel tells their emotional journey of extreme sadness and incredible strength.

“…they ended up doing an MRI and I remember her coming out and saying the baby had been kicking her the whole time. Her OB came into the waiting room … and was weeping, she said the cancer was everywhere.”



Theresia – Colorado Springs, CO

Theresia, previously gainfully employed, shares her story about losing her job and the affect it had on managing her chronic health issues. She describes needing assistance and the impact of a safety net clinic.

“I’ve just kind of learned to be honest, say that there was a need and hold my head up high because I didn’t do anything to cause this to happen and it’s been a very humbling experience.  I’m used to giving, not receiving.”


Kiri – Fort Collins, CO

Kiri tells her story of being diagnosed with breast cancer and her choice to use alternative treatment options. She illustrates the importance of being an engaged patient.

“In 2010, I felt a lump in my breast, the same story many women have. Then you get swept into a process that very quickly did not feel like my path, and I just had to pull back the reigns and say, ‘hey, wait a minute, I’m going to do this the way I feel right about doing this.’”


Michael – El Paso County

Michael, a resident of El Paso county, speaks about seeking and receiving treatment for his escalating poor mental health condition.

“The majority of the time you don’t want to ask for help, you don’t want them to know what’s going on.  You’re scared to ask for help.  But that’s the first step; you have to ask for help.”


Nigel – Colorado Springs, CO

Nigel speaks about a clinic in El Paso county that went beyond normal expectations to provide considerate and quality care for his brother, a large man who struggled with receiving care due to fear of judgment and unaccommodating providers.

“The respect and compassion that the clinic showed a huge man, I mean he was a mountain of a man.  He barely fit through doors; you know he barely fit in cars.  But the clinic accommodated all of that.  I will never forget what they did.”


Colton – Fort Collins, CO

Colton shares his and his father’s health story of chronic Lyme disease and holistic approaches to health. Both he and his father struggled to get their insurance company to pay for alternative treatment methods. His experience has led him to pursue a career path in medicine.

“This experience for me has … inspired me to go into medicine. I want to get to a place where I can be treating people … who went to every doctor in the world and no one could tell them anything.”



Jill – Colorado Springs, CO

Jill moved to Colorado Springs from New Jersey in order to restart her life and access proper medical support. With expensive prescription medication for her chronic disease, she needed help.

“People should be able to have a physical and not worry about paying for the doctor.”


Mary – Colorado Springs, CO

Mary, a parent and grandmother living in Colorado Springs, discusses her struggle to live with the tragic loss of her daughter and debilitating depression.

“Once you start going into the counseling everything turns around…people may think you’re crazy ‘cuz you go to a psychiatrist or to a counselor but I say that all you are doing is trying to help yourself be a better person.”


Elizabeth – Colorado Springs, CO

Elizabeth, a student in Colorado Springs, shares her story about struggling with a chronic disease and affording the care and medication needed to live.

“All of these bills every three months are just piling up and so my parents actually had to go bankrupt over medical stuff.”

Don Jesus

Don Jesus – Durango, CO

Danny and Mariel, both La Plata County-based Community Health Workers, share the story of Don Jesus. Don Jesus was an elderly gentleman who was found on the ground of his trailer after three days of no water or food and in very bad condition.

“The truth is that Jesus is not only our client, but he is our friend… He is the one who brought us together, who brought this community together.”

Karen and Benjamin

Karen and Benjamin – Denver, CO

Karen shares her story about her son Benjamin, who is hearing and visually impaired. She describes their experience with numerous providers, trying to diagnose Benjamin’s issues. Throughout all of it, Karen and her family have stayed extremely positive and built many meaningful relationships within the medical community.

“Some of our relationship with some of our doctors…well it’s almost like a marriage. You have your moments, you just love them so much, and other moments your not sure about this.”

Christina and Jaden

Christina and Jaden – Durango, CO

Christina explains her family’s decision to move from their home in Durango to Denver for her son Jaden’s specialty care. Despite having formed a close relationship with their primary care provider in Durango, the financial strain of living so far away from a neurosurgeon has forced Christina and her family to make this tough choice.

“Its been a very hard decision to move to Denver, because this is home…I’m losing that large chunk of go-to care for specialty care.”

Aleece and Carol

Aleece and Carol – Denver, CO

Aleece and her mother Carol own and run The Garden, a restaurant in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood, committed to providing healthy, local, affordable and sustainable foods. After a difficult and devastating family battle with cancer, Aleece went to natural chef school and now prepares a menu that has plenty of options for folks with restricted diets including vegan, gluten-free and raw choices. Aleece and her mother Carol believe that people must take personal responsibility for their own health, starting with the food they put in their bodies.

“One month after she got the terminal diagnosis was when my lightbulb went on and I saw a big bullseye on my forehead. I was like, you better do whatever you can do to minimize your risk of cancer. You better educate yourself, inform yourself of what’s going on, and take some responsibility for your own life.”