Hope and Help for Living with Illness
Friendly Wheels, Issue 60
Featuring Amigo owner and author Sister Karen Zielinski
Sister Karen Zielinski has dedicated her life to helping others while providing guidance and inspiration. As a Sister of St. Francis in Sylvania, Ohio, Sister Karen is also director of Canticle Studio, which creates products focusing on spirituality and health.
Since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1975, Karen has been active in the MS Society for more than 20 years. She has written for the society and participated in many of the organization’s events, and even created a team for the Toledo MS Walk called “Sister Act.”
After years with MS, Sister Karen began to struggle with mobility. She received her first Amigo from a friend, and instantly fell in love! “Having an Amigo lessened my anxiety — I can go to a movie or come home for lunch on my own. It makes me feel secure, peaceful and confident.”
After she had been diagnosed with MS but before she began using an Amigo, a stranger scolded Karen for using a handicap accessible parking space because they could not see her disability. After she spoke with the person and explained the situation, they apologized for jumping to conclusions.
Karen realized these judgments must happen all the time, and submitted a letter about the incident to Real Living with MS magazine. “I thought I was the only one, but found I was not alone after all the support I received,” Sister Karen said. As it turned out, the letter was the beginning of her writing career, as she began writing a monthly column for the magazine which continued for the next 14 years.
The success of her first published work inspired Karen to write a book detailing various ways to cope with health issues. Writing a book had always been on Karen’s “bucket list,” and when it was partnered with an opportunity to help others, she was thrilled!
“There are enough resources out there medically to take care of health problems and challenges,” Sister Karen said. “What people need is a hand or somebody to say, ‘I’ve been there, this is what I did and you can get through it.'”
Karen’s book, Hope and Help for Living with Illness, focuses on 12 topics to help those who are living with chronic illness. Each chapter is intended to weave spirituality into health challenges through scripture, real life experiences, reflection questions and inspirational quotes.
As Karen says in her book, “We need to remember that the person matters first, not the disease. It is important to remember that we are God’s creatures, and although not perfect human beings, we are wonderful, yet imperfect creatures.”
Click the photo below to watch a video of Karen discussing her book and her outlook on disease. Karen said, “I am not my disease, I am Karen, I’m a sister, and I love my God. I think we can deal with it — there are a lot of tools, they are all around us.”