Up until only a few years ago, when people began using “Health Care Social Media” (“HCSM”) to help one another with their shared medical maladies, people weren’t publicly “Candid” about their medical conditions for fear of obvious or subtle retribution by their employers or because of insecurities regarding the possible or probable perceptions of their significant Other. Thankfully, the “anonymous intimacy” of Virtual Patient Communities & Social Health Networks, like Crohnology.com, and other patient-preferred HCSM “platforms” has changed that to the point where patients often reveal more important medical details online than they do in the sterile and confidential confines of a Doctor’s office. This seems counter-intuitive but being a patient myself I can attest to this phenomenon. I suspect it is due to the more relaxed “environment” of chatting online while sipping a relaxing glass of wine in comfortable clothes as opposed to coming in from the cold and immediately having to get naked and then change into Patient Gowns, the design of which hasn’t changed since Thomas Jefferson had his first prostate exam.
By the same token, there have been many Healthcare Books written which detail how to Cope with, or Manage, Chronic Illness, but few of them are based on 100% “Real,” “personal” or Candid interactions for these very same, understandable, retribution and insecurity reasons. However, I never bought into these fears because when you have a chronic illness it does not define you; it merely becomes another of your character traits, just like being funny, attractive or hard-working. Therefore, I decided in 2001 to write about the Real account of my trials and tribulations with Crohn’s Disease so that others with a similarly debilitating and painful Chronic Illness could relate to my struggles, both in and out of the hospital. I also thought that a book intending to be helpful to others about these types of particularly dull and niche subject matters should exhibit “personality” and be funny and inspiring so that readers are more likely to remember how, for example, I handled things, both successfully and unsuccessfully. Then readers are more likely to truly learn from my experiences. This was the impetus for me writing the book, “Confessions of a Professional Hospital Patient,” which was released in eBook format only a few days ago. The eBook Selling Price is $3.47. (The eBook has also been configured to work with Barnes & Noble’s “Nook” device.)
Authenticity is the Ultimate Teaching Tool
Last week, when the “Confessions of a Professional Hospital Patient” eBook came out, I was trying to figure out what has made the Book so interesting and entertaining to others and an “evergreen” seller since 2001. Well, the other night, while participating in a mental health social media TweetChat, I commented that good Blogs are written by people who make entries that are thought-inspired as opposed to obligatory in nature. For example, people who feel they must blog everyday will eventually lose readers because I think we find Blogs interesting due to how the bloggers describe their handling of anger, frustration, anxiety, fear and other emotions which we all experience. As a result, while Blog entries motivated by these types of common emotions may not be published every day or even every few days, when they are published, their “authenticity” produces interesting content.
During this TweetChat, when I was concentrating on reading and writing about the Mental Health Topics introduced by the Moderator, I realized that I didn’t hold anything back in “Confessions of a Professional Hospital Patient” because “authenticity” is what I was aiming for since I wanted people to have no doubts as to my veracity so they could relax and absorb the material. It’s like when I taught a class on “Negotiating in the Entertainment Industry” to a group of night students already working in the entertainment industry who were also enrolled in this special “Media MBA Program” partially funded by their respective employers. The first night of class I told the 50 or so students that unless I felt the following rather generous grade policy was being abused, everyone would be getting a semester grade no less than “B” because my goal was to TEACH them about “Negotiating in the Entertainment Industry” and I thought the most effective way to do that was by having them not worry about grades so they could simply sit back, listen and LEARN. Without realizing it at the time, I think I used the same approach in my Book and it seems to have worked.
Mainstream Reviewers – “laugh out loud funny” & “wonderfully inspiring”
When “Confessions of a Professional Hospital Patient” first came out in July, 2001, I was shocked at how well it was received by the mainstream Press since it was about the niche and seemingly “dry” subject matters of Crohn’s Disease and Chronic Illness. But readers/reviewers of the Book consistently commented that it was “laugh out loud funny” and “wonderfully inspiring.” That made me feel fantastic because if THEY liked it, I knew my fellow “Crohnies” and Chronic Illness comrades would learn a great deal from my experiences. In that regard, I have received from these chronically ill folks (and from their families) at least one communication a week since 2001 thanking me for helping them, inspiring them or in many cases, for changing their lives. To continue to receive notices like that is an honor I can’t even describe other than to say they make having written the Book an incredibly rewarding experience, of which I will always be proud.
As these mainstream reviews were published, I somehow got on NBC’s “Today Show” and my Book was seriously “taking off.” Publishing public relations agencies then began calling me me about how they could get me on television shows like “Oprah” and “Larry King Live.” I eventually gave in to one of them so I could at least seek those rather lofty and once-in-a-lifetime goals. Long story short, the first thing I did was what they called a “Radio Satellite Tour” during which I gave phone interviews about the Book to the leading morning drive-time radio shows in key cities across the United States. We started in the East Coast at 7:00 AM EST and I sat by my phone until 1:00 PM EST as we gradually worked our way across the country to morning drive-time radio stations in California. Some radio interviews were also taped for broadcast later that week. However, it didn’t much matter in the end as the radio interviews all took place on Monday, September 10, 2001, one day before the world changed and “Confessions of a Professional Hospital Patient” would become the least of anyone’s pressing morning radio topics to discuss. All in all, it was a rather humbling experience to go from possibly appearing on “Oprah” and CNN’s “Larry King” to returning to being a full-time Entertainment Attorney, in the span of 24 hours. While I was initially disappointed in the opportunities I lost, I quickly “turned the page” (pardon the pun) and focused on nothing but the people who tragically perished in the events of 9/11 and the brave men and women in the Armed Forces who would be risking their lives to defend my freedoms for years to come.
“Your Mom CAN’T read my Book – it’s too Personal!!!”
A funny recollection I have of marketing the Book and appearing on a variety of National and Regional Network and Cable Television Shows had to do with my girlfriend at the time. I hadn’t yet met her Mom but meant to as soon as I had a free moment. That gives me the creeps just writing such an arrogant excuse but I had made plans to meet her Mom several times but unfortunately had to cancel them as I never expected my Book to get the amount of widespread Press Coverage it received and I had to take advantage of it. Thankfully, my girlfriend was very understanding and supportive but she was also very excited for us to meet. In fact, she was so enthusiastic about it that she had her Mom purchase my Book in advance of our 1st scheduled dinner meeting. She also told me this as we drove to her Mom’s house and I got so embarrassed because all I could think about was her Mom knowing all about my battles with Chronic Illness and Crohn’s Disease. Worse, she would learn about all my embarrassing personal details revealed in the Book. I was squirming in my car just thinking about what would be going on in her Mom’s mind as she met me and probably scrutinized my suitability for her beautiful daughter. As we got closer, my girlfriend just laughed and said something to the effect of: “It’s so funny that you are paranoid about what MY Mom will think after reading your Book when you’ve already discussed the most intimate details of your life on the “Today Show,” MSNBC and radio stations all across the country.”
I’ve learned over the years that my then-girlfriend’s point that day in my car about her Mom is a major attraction of “Confessions of a Professional Hospital Patient” as it’s really a true and authentic depiction of my life and my funny, sad, poignant, embarrassing, inspiring and frustrating battles with Crohn’s Disease and Chronic Illness. Damn the torpedoes!