Making the Best of It

Listen 49:13
Kirsten Michelle Cills, aka

Kirsten Michelle Cills, aka "The Terminally Ill Comedian," has spent years struggling with cystic fibrosis, a chronic lung condition that makes it hard to breathe. Now, it's become part of her act. (Photo courtesy of Kirsten Michelle Cills)

It’s the start of a new year — a time when lots of people are thinking about how they can improve their lives … and themselves. We make plans to get to the gym, eat healthier, sleep more, and have a better work-life balance. But despite our best intentions, these resolutions are usually short-lived, and often fizzle out by February.

It’s a recipe for disappointment. Not only that — chasing the elusive, future version of ourselves can mean that we’re failing to deal with our current reality. So instead of change, we’re focusing on acceptance on this first episode of 2023 — specifically, how do we find acceptance under challenging circumstances? How do we adapt when life throws us a curveball in the form of a life-changing diagnosis?

We’ll dig into those questions — ditching the New Year’s resolutions in favor of tales about making peace with where we are now. We’ll hear stories about an actor struggling with cystic fibrosis, making your life and schedule work with ADHD, living with a rare and inescapable allergy, and how one family navigated their son’s diagnosis with autism.

Also heard on this week’s episode:

  • Kirsten Michelle Cills always wanted to be an actor. She had the talent and the ambition — just one thing stood in her way: cystic fibrosis. Reporter Justin Kramon tells the story of how this life-threatening illness affected Kirsten’s dream … and eventually opened new doors.
  • We talk with psychologist Jacqueline Mattis, who studies human well-being and positive development at Rutgers University, about ways we can find joy and meaning in what we have now — even if it’s not what we wanted.
  • For years, Jonita Davis heard the same things over and over: that she was flaky, unreliable, forgetful — different. It wasn’t until she was an adult that Jonita finally discovered the reason — and learned to make her life work for her. Nichole Currie reports.
  • Allergies can range from annoying to life-threatening — but usually people can find ways to avoid the things they’re allergic to. But what if you discovered you were allergic to something inescapable? Writer Alison Espach tells the story of how she discovered she was allergic to the cold. Read her essay about the experience, “I Woke Up with Cold Urticaria.”
  • Raising a child with autism comes with unique challenges, from making friends to doing well in school — but one of the most daunting is raising them to be independent. Reporter Jad Sleiman talks with Max, along with his parents, Amy, and Tim, about his Asperger’s diagnosis, and how it transformed their expectations of who and how he would be in the world.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal