Disease Management

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Lynda Peterson, cancer survivor and creator of The Healing Journal: Taking Control of Your Journey Through Cancer

Even people who are generally pretty organized may run into difficulties if they or a loved one are dealing with a serious illness. When I learned that Lynda Peterson, a professional organizer from Whitehorse, Yukon, had developed a special planner to help patients through the healing process, I emailed her to ask about it, and she was kind enough to send along some practical tips as well. I’m sure you’ll find them helpful!


Disease Management – It’s more than just showing up for appointments and popping pills. It’s about a mind-set, about doing everything in one’s power to be successful in their healing journey.  It’s about ownership and attitude.

When I was initially diagnosed with an incurable form of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma I was completely overwhelmed.  I felt lost in the sea of tests, appointments and procedures, and while I recognized that everything was being done for me, I felt somehow it was being done without me.  I felt like a bystander in my own life and watched as my body played the key role in some strange scientific script.

That is until I regained my composure and took back the control.  If this were the journey I was on then I would be the driver behind the wheel. I asked a million questions and took with me to every appointment my day planner, address book, binder and list of questions.  In doing this the most amazing thing happened, I started to feel better about my new reality, I felt empowered!  I dug down and found courage and strength and chose to live my life, no matter how long or short, with a Never Give Up attitude.

I’m a firm believer that with organization comes empowerment.  As professional organizers you already know that.  When dealing with a client who has any kind of illness It’s really important to organize a number of key areas so that the patient and their families can get on with the business of healing; and in the case of a chronic illness like Diabetes, or a permanent disability, learn to embrace their new normal.

Whether your client is dealing with a sudden injury or chronic illness here are 5 tips to help you guide them from overwhelmed to empowered in their healing journey:

1. Create a medical details book that both the patient and caregivers can access and which clients should take with them to all appointments:

  • Medications
  • Appointments
  • Contacts
  • Treatments
  • Medical History

2. Create a medical records file – use an accordion file to keep copies of information they will need to keep:

  • Test results
  • Information materials specific to their condition
  • Correspondence with employers if they’ve had to miss work or have a modified work setting
  • Correspondence with insurance providers

3. Organize the home:

  • Arrange it for ease of mobility and comfort
  • Keep it clutter free
  • Have a cupboard for all medications, intake schedule and emergency numbers
  • Create an Action File –  a dedicated space for incoming mail and other important papers handy for both the patient and their team of caregivers

4. Organize the support system

5. Organize their financial affairs

  • Will, health care directive, power of attorney
  • Compile a list of all accounts – bank, utility, memberships etc.
  • Set up automatic payments
  • File box for all legal/important papers

Bonus Tip:

Another way you can help your clients is to provide them with lists of service providers in your community:

  • Physiotherapists
  • Massage Therapists
  • Alternative Therapy Clinics
  • Pharmacists
  • Medical Supply Stores
  • Health Food Stores
  • Support Groups

Working with your client and teaching both the patient and primary caregiver how to be organized and manage the illness will help them to free their minds of the mental clutter so that they can concentrate on healing.

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Lynda Peterson is a two-time cancer survivor, 20-year educator, professional organizer with Professional Organizers in Canada and award winning author of The Healing Journal: Taking Control of Your Journey Through Cancer, a comprehensive guide and detailed record book designed especially for families facing a cancer journey. It enables the user to keep track of and manage all the information that will suddenly become important in their lives, including appointments, questions, treatments, contacts, medical history, travel arrangements and ‘to do’ lists along with healing strategies, resource lists, a journal section and the author’s own story.

Join the Conversation


  1. Moreen Torpy Moreen Torpy on March 2, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    I like this planner and all your suggestions for what to track. I use a spreadsheet-type record that has everything on it including what’s going on with my body, diagnoses, meds, reactions to them, etc. This way I always have details for my next MD visit.

    Will implement many of your ideas now.

    • Avatar Lynda Peterson on March 3, 2013 at 7:20 pm

      Hi Moreen,

      Thanks so much for your comment. I’m glad you’ve found some ideas here that you can use in your own health journey. A spreadsheet makes a lot of sense too. The more information we can provide our health care team, the better able they are to provide more precise and tailored treatment plans. Best of luck to you.


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