On November 11, 2013, College of Education (COE) Associate Professor Cristy Kessler published 5 S.T.E.P.S. to Being Your Own Patient Advocate. The book chronicles Kessler’s personal medical journey and provides strategies for others who face difficult medical situations. Kessler is a bone marrow stem-cell transplant survivor, but the life-saving procedure came after years of pain, fatigue, and frustration.
In 2006, Kessler was diagnosed with three autoimmune diseases that were destroying her internal organs. Treating her for symptoms associated with scleroderma, ankylosing spondylitis, and vasculitis, doctors were unable to eradicate the diseases. Without any promising treatment or health insurance that would cover the stem-cell transplant in the United States, Kessler traveled to Istanbul, Turkey where she received the transplant at Anadolu Hospital on March 21, 2011.
“It dawned on me while I was presenting at a conference in England that, after all I had been through to get my stem-cell transplant, I have, in fact, learned a lot about health care,” Kessler explained. “I then asked myself why I couldn't develop something for all patients, similar to what I do when I am teaching teachers, that would help them navigate their own journey.”
Kessler teaches in the COE Institute for Teacher Education Elementary program and has led numerous teachers to successful National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification. Despite her lifelong struggle with illness, she has served as a role model and an inspiration for countless students, colleagues, friends, and family – all of whom rallied to raise funds in support of her medical expenses. Sharon Miller, owner of Buckskin Books publishers who collaborated with Kessler on her book, designed and managed the fundraising website and campaign, One of Our Own.
Kessler is known for her innovative and exciting projects. A year after her return from Turkey, she hosted four celebrity chefs who worked with outreach programs and college and high school students, providing hands-on lessons and gourmet farm-to-table meals. In January 2013, she began working with the IM4U Campaign, a leading early-childhood development non-profit organization. With twenty Leeward Coast teachers from the COE master of education program, the initiative is pilot testing an anti-bullying curriculum in six of Hawai'i's elementary schools, one middle school, and two high schools.
Kessler said she hopes to encourage others through her own determination to live. The “5 S.T.E.P.S.” she describes in the book are sensibility, teamwork, education, perseverance and patience, and sustainability. “It doesn't matter if you are dealing with a long term health issue or are someone who visits the doctor once a year for a physical exam; there is valuable information for anyone, patient or caregiver,” she concluded. “If nothing else, there are a few stories that will make you laugh.”
The ebook is available at Amazon.com for Kindle and Nook, as well as other retailers, for epub format. The print version will be available soon. For more information, go to 5stepstobeingyourownpatientadvocate.com.