Chronic illness group seeks to offer support

Published 12:11 am Monday, November 4, 2013

NATCHEZ — Living with a chronic illness is often lonely.

But two local women are hoping to offer support to residents living with any kind of chronic illness.

Tiffany Mascagni and Summer Scirocco have formed a chronic illness support group that will meet from 5:30-6:30 p.m. every first and third Wednesday of the month beginning Nov. 6 in the Cypress Room at Natchez Regional Medical Center.

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Mascagni, 34, who was diagnosed with Lyme disease nearly two years ago, said people suffering from chronic illnesses often experience the same issues, despite the differences in their illnesses.

“Depression is a really big one,” she said. “You go through all the stages of grief when you’re dealing with a disease. You go through depression, anger. There’s questions that arise about how you’re going to take care of yourself. And there’s also guilt associated with chronic illness. It’s a lot of different issues, and we usually go through the same ones.”

Mascagni says the Miss-Lou currently does not have a support system for people with chronic illnesses.

“Most of the support I have found has been online,” she said. “I thought it would be good to get people face-to-face, get to know each other, call each other and build a strong support system here.”

Scirocco, 26, has psoriasis and was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis in March. She recently met another local woman who has psoriatic arthritis and says it was comforting knowing someone else could relate to her illness.

“It was so overwhelming meeting her,” Scirocco said. “I hope that (through this group) other people will feel comforted and get support and get the confidence back that they need.”

Many people with chronic illnesses find support through their friends and family, Mascagni said.

“This group can be helpful for people who have a hard time expressing their feelings or limitations to the people who are caring for them,” she said.

Mascagni and Scirocco have been working with Kay Ketchings at NRMC to organize the group. Mascagni said she is thankful for Ketchings’ support and that NRMC is allowing the group to use the hospital as a meeting space.

The group’s third Wednesday of the month meeting will likely have facilitators in the form of medical professionals who treat patients with chronic illnesses. Some meetings may also be open to caretakers and family, Mascagni said, but that decision will be made later when the group is up and running.

The group, Mascagni said, will be a place where chronic illness sufferers can discuss problems they have with their illnesses that others may not understand.

“A lot of times, it’s so lonely, especially if you have a disease that is not seen by others,” she said. “It’s hard when you’re approached by people, and they kind of know what you’re going through or they see your pill box … and they say, ‘But you don’t look sick.’ I’ve just learned a bunch of different crafty things to say back without hurting people’s feelings. So it’s really hard sometimes.”

Dealing with practical issues, such as grocery shopping using a mobility device or worrying about what others think are issues Mascagni says she believes the group will talk about and help each other overcome.

“I want people to know they’re not alone,” she said. “I want people to know there’s a whole community of people here who are having to make all of these same decisions.”