Growing a successful career while coping with chronic Lyme
By Fred Diamond
On my Sales Game Changers Podcast, I frequently interview people who have successful careers while battling chronic illness such as Lyme disease.
Adrienne Volpe is one such person. During her 30-year battle with chronic Lyme disease, she’s been able to continue having a thriving career in residential real estate in upstate New York. She is also a published author.
But it hasn’t been easy.
Even her path to being diagnosed with Lyme disease was a challenge.
30 doctors said she was in perfect health
“I saw over 30 doctors and was mainly told I had mental illness and that I was in perfect health,” she said.
“When I finally got my (Lyme) diagnosis in early 2019, it was quite a shock and from then on, it’s just been treatment and management. It’s so insidious because it just takes away your life little by little until one day you find yourself non-functional. I’ve been very fortunate to have a career in sales because it’s allowed me to thrive despite having this illness.”
I asked her about how you can be successful in sales while having a chronic illness.
“Most of my career has been in real estate and mortgage banking sales. It’s one of the few careers that someone who’s ill or ill frequently can still manage and succeed in because there were many times that I was working from home on my phone, or if I was in the hospital, I would haves my laptop in my bed,” she said.
What challenges did she face?
“The hardest part for me was at times being perceived as unreliable by people in my field or people that I worked with in my organization because quite honestly, I always looked so well that no one could ever believe that anything was wrong,” she said.
“Even my own family thought I was a hypochondriac. That was probably my biggest challenge was being perceived as unreliable. When I finally got my diagnosis in 2019, I spoke out very loudly in my community so that people understood what I’d been facing.”
I asked her to explain more about how people did not always believe she was sick and what it felt like knowing that.
“It manifested in these malaise type illnesses that never really turned into anything but that would render me basically useless to do anything for days on end. Sometimes 10 or 12 days at a time out of each month and I had chronic shingles for over 30 years. I would get the shingles every six weeks, and I was in a general rundown condition.
Even when I wasn’t well, I just didn’t have the same energy other people had but I always looked so well. That was really the problem was I looked healthy and well. I always made sure that I took care of my personal grooming needs. I wore makeup, and my hair looked good, and I dressed well, and everyone just thought I was a dynamo except there was no dynamite in this dynamo.”
Adrienne said that one of her favorite things is to help people with Lyme heal.
She said, “There was a year that I was also frequently bedridden. Many of us think healing is we take a pill, or we do a treatment, and we feel better. Healing for me was painful. It took three or four years of treatment and there were setbacks. We must be patient with ourselves and give ourselves the time to heal and understand that healing is not comfortable, it’s uncomfortable.”
Healing is hard
She continued, “So many of the people that I speak with weekly, who do have Lyme who have careers are suffering, and they think they’re getting worse, and they’re not, they’re healing. Keep the faith. Don’t stop treating and stay on the path. I believe that since I had 10 co-infections with my Lyme, and if it’s possible for me, it’s possible for you.”
I asked her for her advice for people with chronic illness who want to consider sales.
“Talk to some people who you know, find out what they do and how they do it. Once you do it, make sure that you associate with people who are more talented and better than you. I’ve learned so much from the top performers in my field so much so that people I’ve recruited are far surpassing me in their success, and I’m now learning from them. I think we all have to be humble enough to ask and learn and be willing to surround ourselves with people who are successful.”
A final bit of advice?
“Nobody knows the suffering of somebody with Lyme disease unless they’ve had it. I love my relationships. My human relationships in life are everything to me. I’ve made some of the best friends I’ve ever met in my life through Lyme disease. Even though it’s been an absolute curse and bane of my existence, I wouldn’t have these people in my life. I can’t even imagine not knowing the folks I’ve met through these groups and meeting you. It’s changed my whole life. I have to take the good from it because it took so much from me, I know I have to be able to help other people get through this. It’s not a choice, it must happen.”
Fred Diamond is based in Fairfax, VA and can be contacted via Facebook. His book, “Love, Hope, Lyme: What Family Members, Partners, and Friends Who Love a Chronic Lyme Survivor Need to Know” is available on Amazon. The e-version of the book is free to Lyme survivors. Reach out to Fred on Facebook for your copy.