03 December 2011 ~ 5 Comments

Chronic Illness and Raising Awareness at Work – Interview With Sandy Hill Amrein

This article is the second in a series of interviews with chronically ill people who are using their jobs to raise awareness for and improve the situation of others with chronic illness.

This interview is with Sandy Hill Amrein, founder of the cosmetics and candles company Super Lotion. You can connect with Sandy via her personal Facebook page, check out her sweetly smelling and hypoallergenic creations on Facebook or Tweet her on Twitter.

Sarah: First off, could you please tell me a little about your illness, how it impacts your everyday (professional and private) life and any words of advice you would give to others who are chronically ill?

Sandy: I have been dealing with M.S. for over 25 years and even though I’ve probably had fibro since I was a kid, I was only officially diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2006, three months after my heart attack, so I am also a heart patient and just recently diagnosed bipolar. I have a lot of other health issues too, along with a long list of traumas.

I can’t work outside the house at a regular job because I don’t think any boss is going to put up with the screaming and crying when the really bad pain hits (which is about one to three hours daily), I do set up at the flea market when I’m up to it. My two grown-up sons moved back home to help take care of me and give their dad a break.  My older son is my primary caretaker. I can’t stand up long enough to fix my own food most of the time so I have to have someone else fix my meals, unless we have microwavable food here. Plus there are also a lot of smaller things that I have to have help with.

As far as advise to others: I know it’s sometimes impossible, but try to keep a positive attitude as much as possible. My grandma used to tell me that negative breeds negative and positive breeds positive. The “fibro monster” feeds off of self pity, so if you allow yourself to wallow in the self pity, the pain will get worse. Which, believe me, is something I do a lot – it’s hard not to when you just want to crawl out of your body to escape the pain.

I’m lucky that I have such an amazingly supportive family. When the pain starts getting to the point that I’m vocal about it, and, especially at it’s worst, my family is right there asking me what I need. Usually, I’m in too much pain to think straight so they will start listing off suggestions like do I need a massage, pain pill, heat pad, etc. My hubby of 33 years and my oldest son do everything they can to make me laugh and distract me. They remind me to go to my safe place in my mind or watch a comedy. As much as they don’t like playing card/board games or dice, they will play with me to help get my mind off the pain. They even do funny dances and sing strange songs just to make me laugh.

I guess that’s the best thing I can tell someone who is dealing with this disease: find a distraction like a funny movie or even a video game. It’s not easy to force yourself to do it when you are hurting so bad, but it’s worth it if you do. A support system is vital as far as I’m concerned. I would not be here if it weren’t for my family.

Sarah: You use your job to improve things for other people who are chronically ill – what gave you the idea to do this and could you tell me a bit about how you do this?

Sandy: I make candles, smelters and lotion as a way to distract myself from the pain. I can’t use all that I make and haven’t really been successful in selling a lot of it, so I started running out of room to store it. My poor family is kind of overrun with lotion, supplies, wax, oils, containers, etc. I’ve pretty much taken up most of the house, LOL. Then I realized just how many people suffer like I do, whether with physical/emotional pain or just everyday stress and so I decided I wanted to do something to make someone’s day a little brighter.

I try to sell as much as I can because the more money I can make from sales, the more I can give away. Because I use the money to get supplies and pay for postage for the Happy packs and Prize packs. I started sending out what people called Pick me up packs or pmups for short, now known as a Happy pack. Each Happy Pack contains a little bit of my homemade lotion (enough to cover your hands five to 10 times) and a smelter (a scented wax tart for tart warmers). It’s not much – in fact I feel really bad sometimes that I can’t fill the lotion cups all the way, but I can’t afford to do that. My family supports me doing this and even helps when I need it. I don’t sell enough to help pay bills even though we need it, I just manage to sell enough to buy supplies and postage, but my hubby is great about it so that helps.

Sarah: What is your motivation for doing this? How does it make you feel?

Sandy: My motivation is a bit selfish, I guess, because it helps to keep me a little bit saner and I love seeing the response from people when they receive my goodies. I love it when someone posts feedback because whenever I see or hear the happiness that my goodies bring to others, it brings a smile to my face and inspires me to keep doing it and to do more. Sometimes, when I’m feeling down and think about quitting, I read the feedback and it helps to really lift my mood. Which is why I started doing the little giveaways and giving away bigger prize packs.

Sarah: What do you ultimately hope to achieve by doing this? What do you wish would change for those who are chronically ill?

Sandy: I just want to make lives a little brighter and let others know that someone cares. I wish for a cure and if we can’t have a cure, I wish for everyone suffering to get what they need to get relief and to have a support system.

Check back tomorrow for our third interview (and a surprise!) and let me know if you would also like your business to be featured as part of an interview!

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