by Peter Waite
I am still amazed what HealingWell.com has become since that Fall day in September 1997 when I sat at my computer in my tiny Boston apartment launching what would become the beginnings of this web site. To be completely honest, my motivation that day was really quite selfish.
I had just been diagnosed with a chronic illness a few weeks earlier and felt completely alone. My experience with medical tests, procedures, and getting shuffled from doctor to doctor was absolutely exhausting and terribly frustrating. It was during this experience I learned that doctors don't always know all the answers (which was quite a revelation to me at the time) and that if I was going to get through this I needed to become more proactive and involved, learning more about my symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
I did not know about in-person support groups. I didn't even know how to really reach out to my own family members about my chronic illness. So I turned to what I was comfortable with.... computers and the Internet. The problem was in 1996 there were really no web sites offering the kind of support on my condition that I was looking for. The Internet was still in its infancy and there were no WebMD's or well known health sites to provide meaningful support for patients. I knew nothing about HTML, web page design, and had only an elementary understanding of computer programming, but I soon took on the task of learning more about it.
The initial site wasn't much to look at, but it was one of the first online support resources available. I soon discovered thousands of people were visiting it each day. This came as a shock to me, but also filled me with a wonderful sense of purpose. I discovered an amazing truth, that when you reach out to help others, you can heal yourself. I had no forums in those early days, but answered thousands of emails and formed some very lasting bonds with people just like me. I was not alone. My case was not unique. There were other people in this world going through exactly what I was going through. This was a huge breakthrough for me in helping me find healing.
That brings me to the present. I am humbled and amazed by the growth of HealingWell.com. It is one of the few things I've done in my life, outside my family of course, that I truly care about. I never imagined it would become what it has.
I've devoted a good portion of my life to it over the last 20 years and look forward to many more. It has been as much a source of healing for myself as it has been for thousands of others. It has taught me the goodness of human beings. It has also taught me to learn to live life as it is, instead of what I wish it was. One of my favorite quotes is by the philosopher Joseph Campbell who said: "We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us."
HealingWell will always be my passion. Thanks to each of you for all the love and compassion you share in helping others on their way to "healing well". I've learned so much from each of you these last 20 years.
Peter Waite, M.S., M.A. is founder and CEO of HealingWell.com, and holds graduate degrees from Utah State University and Brandeis University. Founded in 1997, HealingWell.com is the foremost support community on diseases, conditions, and chronic illness. HealingWell.com has been featured by BBC Online, USA Today, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Associated Press, the Industry Standard, Reader's Digest, PBS.org, Forbes.com, and USA Weekend Magazine. HealingWell.com has also been the recipient of numerous health industry awards. He enjoys spending his free time with his wife and four children.