ChronicBabe Offers Alternative to "Whining" About Illness

Nicholas Genes, MD, PhD


February 13, 2007

Diagnosed with a host of chronic medical problems in her mid-20s, Jenni Prokopy looked for online resources to help her cope. When she couldn't find such sites, she started her own: The site is full of suggestions and tips for women with chronic conditions, geared for our era of increasingly complicated healthcare and diminished face time with physicians.

The site reflects her upbeat outlook on life. As she told me the last time I interviewed her:

The positive slant on the site is absolutely purposeful. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at 25, and for a couple of years after my diagnosis, I searched for online resources and in-person support groups that could help me cope...But the support groups and sites were all about bitching. That's it -- just complain, whine, wallow. Of course, there's a place for that; it's not healthy to hold in negative emotions, and if you're chronic, you've definitely got a legitimate complaint to a certain degree.

But after you let it all out, you've got to move forward, or your illness takes is purposefully positive because there are still a bazillion Web sites out there where people can complain endlessly. I don't need to join that crowd. I'm offering an alternative for people who are ready to move forward with their lives.

Jenni Prokopy at ChronicBabe hosts Grand Rounds
February 13, 2007

Dr. Genes: Since we last corresponded, you've been on TV and radio, and ChronicBabe has been named as a top Chicago blog. What has this success meant for your site?

Jenni Prokopy: For now, it simply means that more and more people are finding ChronicBabe, which in itself is great. Also, it means I can start charging for advertising and sponsors, and begin to pay contributors, and put more energy into growing our offerings. I'm preparing to launch a brand new look in a few weeks, which will make room for advertising opportunities on both the site and our eNewsletter.

One of the new offerings I'm most excited about is "Help Desk," which will contain hundreds and hundreds of links on all kinds of chronic conditions -- a one-stop shop for "babes" who want informative and interesting resources, including some that are off the beaten path.

Dr. Genes: As your site has grown, how have you managed to give space to different columnists with different voices? Do you ever disagree on healthcare policy, alternative medicine, or other issues?

Jenni Prokopy: I provide guidelines to all of my contributors, so they know my expectations in terms of providing tools or resources to the readers; beyond that, I manage columnists and guest writers on a case-by-case basis. We may not always agree on every point, but that's fine; I think we need to offer a variety of perspectives. But I work very hard to maintain a positive energy, a no-whining zone, and I have rejected a couple of columns that missed the mark.

Dr. Genes: What other projects are in the works at Chronic Babe? I read that you're collecting pill bottles...?

Jenni Prokopy: The pill bottle project is for an art piece I'm working on, an expression of chronic life using the ultimate symbol of "illness": the pill bottle. I have just about enough bottles now, so that should be done by spring. My biggest project of all is a complete redesign of the site (and expansion), which is almost complete. Once that's done, I have a series of e-books planned for 2007.

Dr. Genes: One more upcoming project is Grand Rounds, which returns to on February 13, 2007. Grand Rounds is the weekly collection of the best in online medical writing, with links to dozens of works from physicians, students, nurses, and patients. Jenni Prokopy will host, compile, and arrange submissions around a theme that's appropriate for Valentine's Day: "Give me some sugar," revisiting posts about love, acts of kindness, helpfulness, or other forms of sweetness. Check it out and enjoy her own "sweetly positive" outlook.


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