Living A Healthy and Happy Life With Chronic Disease

Let me re-introduce my good-health self!

health and lifestyle for women with chronic disease
Living A Healthy and Happy Life With Chronic Disease

I’ve been asked to share more on my health journey, chronic conditions, living with chronic disease and how I found good health, and how I use physical activity, a healthy diet and a generally healthy lifestyle to manage any chronic pain, long-term illness and just maintain overall health. So, today on the blog, I am going to be addressing this for those interested in hearing more! In Canada, about 2 million people are affected with an autoimmune condition, while in the United States alone, 50 million people have one or more autoimmune diseases. And of those, approximately 75 percent affected are women. If discussions of physical and mental health are a sensitive subject for you, I wanted to take this moment to issue a content warning for this blog. Please take care of yourself, and if skipping this post feels like the right choice for you, please do. Big Hugs!

Our Wedding Photo

Almost 8 years ago, pregnant with my first daughter, I received a phone call from my family doctor to come in and review some blood work. Her office told me there’s nothing to be alarmed about but that the doctor would like to see me to discuss a few things.

“You have an autoimmune disease”.

“Your body is attacking your thyroid”

“You’ll just have to take this pill for the rest of your life and that’s it”.

“You can still have a normal life”.

I had slightly high blood pressure, but my blood sugar was good and I had no family members with any history of chronic diseases or chronic illnesses. I would need to adapt to find some healthy ways to all my daily activities but in general, I had very few to no physical limitations and I could go on with my life the same as before.

I went home thinking I guess it makes sense? – Could explain why I was gaining weight even though I had been training and running half-marathons, or why I felt tired and cold even on the warmest days… but symptoms? I had no pain, no acute illness and zero risk factors that would imply a disease. Symptoms were not really very evident. So I did what she recommended, largely because I was three months pregnant and didn’t want to complicate anything right now. But truthfully, life went on. I made some adjustments – mostly being aware of when I felt off, but lifestyle, diet, self-care… not great at the time and I didn’t know much about problem solving or positive changes that would only help my overall health.

Months passed, my pregnancy was healthy and we had a healthy little baby girl. I threw myself into maternity leave, loving every second of my time with our little one. But, I struggled… mostly inside, battling something I knew very little about. Slowly, I was growing angry that my body was attacking itself and I could do nothing about it. I wondered if it would “show up” at some point. Would the chronic health problems start to appear? That was the hardest part. On our daughter’s first birthday, we found out we were having another baby, and just like that, the blood tests started again. My endocrinologist increased my dose again and scheduled monthly checkups. But beyond that, I don’t remember being told to do anything else differently. It was believed by many of the doctors that I had at the time that lifestyle changes weren’t all that helpful. Nine months later, our second healthy girl was born. My dose dropped back down and then parenting two under two began, as well as a reno, a career change and so much in between. Looking back though, I was slowly beginning to question being told, “there’s really nothing you can do”.

I made time to just do nothing. Which was something. In the process of trying to gain control, I learned that the very thing I needed was to stop.

Then my grandmother passed away. And two months later, my father very suddenly. I felt like I lost more control – I would ask, why was all of this happening to me? My angry grew. As did my anxiety. What does it mean to be healthy if it can so quickly be taken away? Did my family history actually have heart disease? Chronic health conditions that I didn’t know about? Was the same going to happen to me? All my thoughts revolved around sadness, grief and fear. Then the health anxiety started to kick in, and boy did that shake me. I was severely triggered at the mention of health, illness, death. Overnight I went from being healthy to being stricken with illness. Or at least that’s how I felt.

Living A Healthy and Happy Life with Chronic Disease

Then the pandemic hit. And that’s when I had to make a choice. I was riddled with anxiety, fear and hatred towards my own body. None of which were helping a body trying to heal and reduce anti-bodies. Out of a sense of desperation, I started to read and listen to everything that had to do with autoimmune disease, health anxiety and grief. I talked to healthcare professionals in all formats – conventional and functional medicine. I began therapy again to manage all of my emotions and thoughts and started goal setting for what I’d feel in 2 months, 3 months, 6 months, a year… Slowly, over the course of two years, I found the right people, social support, health care providers, health services, online support groups, therapists and friends that allowed me to gain a sense of acceptance and control over my disease and thoughts. It was not about fighting it anymore. But despite all of this, I was still really angry. Angry at the doctors that told me there was nothing I could do, angry that for the last four years I hadn’t done anything to educate myself and angry at the conventional health system that made me feel like I had to choose between conventional and functional medicine. For me, the combination of the two is what made a big difference.

Only then, I began to heal my body. I made small changes and tried different approaches and looked at healthy living completely differently. I eliminated inflammatory foods from my diet, as well as caffeine and alcohol for one year. I studied what healthy food meant for me and my condition and established a new normal with a chronic health condition. I learned how to breathe again. I took it easy on my body and acknowledged the things in my life that were causing unnecessary stress. And one of the biggest factors is stress management!

I made time to just do nothing. Which was something.

In the process of trying to gain control, I learned that the very thing I needed was to stop to start living my best life.

Two years later, and it’s so much more than just taking a pill. My energy is back and I’m learning to be comfortable in my body. I’ve been able to reduce my dosage of medicine significantly by making lifestyle adjustments and healthy eating. I know how to listen to my body and 9 days out of 10, my Hashimoto’s doesn’t have control over my day. So, keep reading to see what a day in my life looks like, living a healthy and happy life with chronic disease.

In many ways, I feel healthier than ever. Mainly because I’ve educated myself and learned how to give my body what it needs. That is power. From time to time, I still struggle with feeling deprived or different, somehow unlucky, but really, this is just perception. I am vigilant about listening to my body, making adjustments when I need to and taking it easy if I feel a little off. I’m gentle with myself when I can’t follow my routine or when I feel like cheating a little on my diet! I have an occasional glass of wine and have switched to decaf coffee.

Healthy means different things for different people. While I will always in some way be battling this disease, I am and feel extremely healthy. Living with chronic disease does not mean you’re unhealthy. While I may have to do certain things that other’s don’t, my body feels strong and my mental health is better than ever. This is something that I learned to believe – it’s a comprehensive, holistic approach to you life and goes far beyond just one thing.

Of course, please note that I am NOT a doctor and in no way giving medical advice. This is simply what I have done and what I believe to be good for me and life with chronic disease.

Female At the Gym and Walking Outdoors
Living A Healthy and Happy Life with Chronic Disease

First thing is first – sleep. I know what my body needs and that’s usually 7.5-8 hours of sleep. I try to get that every night, but it’s not always possible. If I don’t get that sleep, I’ll try to give myself a little wiggle room – maybe do a gentler workout or ensure I’m getting extra nutrition in my meals that day.

1. Me Time (No phone time first thing in the morning + 5 min. journaling)

I resist the urge that my phone be the first thing I look at each morning. I mean, think about it. How many other things do you think your body would prefer to do instead? Step outside for 2 minutes, look at sun rising, drink water, stretch… I will also write down a quick intention for the day, and write down anything that is occupying space in my mind that I don’t want – by writing it down, it frees me up for other things.

Get dressed for the gym, take my medicine, warm water with lemon, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon + lunches. THEN we wake up the kids.

I make sure my body is ready, because once the girls are up, it’s about an hour of chaos, rushing and mental madness. I also try to have their lunches made so that all we need to do is get them dressed and fed before leaving for school. I’ll make myself a quick protein smoothie that I’ll sip on my way to school and the gym.

School Drop Off + Gym

My husband and I drop off Camila + Elena at school and then head to the gym. Physical strength and specifically, weight training. Depending on where I am in my cycle, my exercise routine will change. Usually though, it’s an alternating routine of weight lifting, core strength, running or walking on the treadmill inclined, and lots of stretching.

Steam Room and/or showeR

I end each steam or shower with a 1 min. cold shower. I’ve gotten used to doing this about two years ago, at which point I HATED IT, but now I’ve gotten so used to it that I crave it every morning. Living in a super hot climate year round while being abroad helps, as it’s nice to get that cool down once a day.  

Work Day

One thing at a time. It’s easy for me to get into squirrel mode, trying to do everything. But now, I’ve slowed down and work on one thing at a time, one problem at a time. I’ve also learned to ask for help when I need it so that I don’t feel overwhelmed and can manage stress better. It’s not about focusing on the bad, but instead of the good things. The good days are what matter.

Another new habit I’ve implemented is scheduling more breaks into my day. Taking a second to get up, walk around, breathe and reset has been a game changer. It took a long time, and to be honest is proabably going to be forever ongoing.

I eat around 12pm, prioritizing protein as I’ve learned my body feels better when I eat a substantial amount of protein with each meal. I also eat tons of veggies and try to make everything from scratch. I love to cook, so this is fairly enjoyable for me.

After-school activities + Dinner

Ballet, hip-hop, skating, art class… and then it’s dinner time. We try to eat before 6pm and it’s usually a protein, healthy carb and veggies. We love to BBQ, and I love to make poke bowls – It’s not complicated and we make this family time. The girls are starting to ask to help make meals, so things get messy sometimes. I’m learning not to worry about the mess and enjoy these little moments. Then we’ll wind down, homework, do baths for the kids, watch some tv and read in bed with the girls before they fall asleep.

Quiet Time, Music, Puzzles, Reading in Bed.

My husband and I started to do puzzles together – listening to some music with a glass of wine. This has taken our attention away from the TV, though we still make time for some Ted Lasso! We also love to read, so if we do watch TV, we’ll head upstairs early enough to have time to read before bed.


There are a few things that I stay away from on a daily basis – those include caffeine, alcohol, sugary drinks, artificial sweeteners, processed oils and sugars. I try to only use non-toxic products but it’s impossible to be 100% entirely clean. I embrace the basics of healthy eating and try not to stress too much when I don’t stick to the EXACT treatment plan because, life, right? I am not entirely gluten free but I stay away from processed wheats and grains and try to eat only sourdough or very clean organic pasta and bread on occasion.

I exercise every single day. If I don’t go to the gym on any given day, I’ll get in a walk or some at-home strength training or stretching. MEGA important for me. Physical health is by far the biggest non-negotiable for me.

Of course, there are times when it’s impossible. Eating out is a challenge, but I’ve learned not to stress if on occasion I have something that has one of those ingredients in it. 95/5 rule, is that a thing? My point is, my body thanks me when I stay away from as much of it as possible.

healthy eating for living with chronic disease
Living A Healthy and Happy Life with Chronic Disease

The Takeaways… Living A Healthy and Happy Life with Chronic Disease

Hashimoto’s, a chronic autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid, can be so many things. It’s specific conditions or symptoms often go unnoticed because they’re easily mistaken for everyday fatigue, moodiness, anxiety. or what makes me super furious, passed as “mom-stress” If you’re stressed for ANY REASON, which we all are from time to time, the symptoms are the same. For others, the symptoms are much more severe and detectable. It’s important to have our thyroid checked because it is the source of so many other functions in the body. You can have hyper or hypo-thyroid without having Hashimoto’s. A blood test to check your thyroid function as well as your anti-bodies will determine whether it’s of the autoimmune type.

I also want to add that everyone is different and need to do things in different ways. This is just my journey and what worked for my body and give me a positive outcome. It’s best to consult your health care provider if you suspect symptoms, as everyone is different and it should always come from a professional. But, I want to encourage you to be open to finding the solution that works for you. It may take a few doctors or therapists to find the right health information for you. In my case, it’s a combination of medicine and lifestyle changes that make me feel good. The most important thing is that if you’re not feeling good, continue to find the sources that will help you find what you need. It’s not okay for anyone to tell you,” this is how it is and there’s nothing you can do”. I think that sense of defeat is what may lead you to feeling worse, but perhaps in other ways. And remember, sometimes we all have bad days, where we feel off or low-energy. Don’t let those days brinng you down. I always tell meself on those days, “We all have them. It’s just one day. Tomorrow will be different”. Like a bad headache. This too shall pass.

Lastly, I want to end this post by saying that I believe the healing starts to happen when you stop fighting it. My angry slowly started to turn into acceptance. I found friends and support that allowed me to vent and grow, without feeling like I was victimizing myself. Once I let that go, my happiness began to return and I found ways to laugh about things that would once make me cry. I want to live life to the fullest extent exactly as I am. We’re all better because of it, not despite it.

If you’re new here, I’m Donata Delano. I am the creative owner and artist behind Donata Delano Art. I started The Good Canvas in an effort to build an art community focused on art, creativity and business. Aside from art related tutorials, tips and information occasionally, I also post recipes, crafts and out adventures living abroad in Mexico.

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Much Love,


Living A Healthy and Happy Life with Chronic Disease

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