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When you have a chronic illness, planning and recording the everyday events and activities of your life can be of paramount importance. Identifiable patterns are not only an important part of diagnosis and treatment of many chronic conditions, they often help us figure out complex problems such as food intolerance and help us with things like pacing and understanding what triggers flares. When McKenna Harwell couldn’t find a planner made to capture all of this vital information, she decided to make one for all chronic illness warriors who need to track a variety of health information on a daily basis.
McKenna, a 27 year old from Lubbock, suffers from chronic endometriosis. She’s a stay-at-home mom with a keen sense of humor, an entrepreneurial spirit and is a self-proclaimed Dr. Pepper Snob “…it’s deep and real,” she confides, tongue-in-cheek. She has a knack for crafts and organization, as her Warrior Life Planner can attest. She also loves to bake, and is clearly a person who values a clean, orderly home, as she added “and this may sound really odd, but I love to vacuum and shampoo our carpets… I’m addicted to clean floors!”
McKenna, who’s just completed her third surgery in four months and has just learned of an impeding fourth surgery, has been working hard to get the first batch of Warrior Life Planners printed and ready for 2019 in spite of it all.
The Making of the Warrior Life Planner
I asked McKenna to expand on her motivation for creating the planner. “I am a bit of a planner/organizer junkie and I could never find one that had everything I needed as a chronic pain sufferer. I needed a place to track my medication, my symptoms and triggers, doctor’s appointments, etc. I tried bullet journaling (but really it irritated me, because I couldn’t make it ‘pinterest perfect’). I also tried using a regular planner, but it just wasn’t working. I have used hundreds of planners over the years and finally decided that I could just create one. That’s how the Warrior Life Planner was born!”
She went onto explain how the planner evolved: “When I first started throwing around the idea for a planner it was going to be specifically for endometriosis. I have suffered with this disease for over 10 years and it is something I know very well. From there I decided to not limit this planner to just endo warriors because all chronic pain and illness warriors could benefit from having something like this. I did an informal poll with several chronic illness and endo groups that I am a part of to find out how people are currently tracking everything and what they would want. Then I used references and ideas from some of my favorite planners and bullet journal models to create the pages from scratch. I have actually made and thrown out 10 different versions of the Warrior Life Planner over the past year trying to make it exactly what I envisioned. I wanted something that would evoke strength because that is the defining characteristic of our community. I also struggled with the colors because I didn’t want them to look like a kindergarten teacher threw up rainbows on the page, there are enough of those types of planners out there. It has been a process but I am very proud of the latest version that I will be printing here in the next few weeks!”
What’s in a Warrior Life Planner?
The Warrior Life Planner is currently an exclusively paper planner and retails for $70, a fair and comparable price for its size and utility. The Warrior Life Planner is a 246 page 8”x9” spiral bound book filled with usefulness for any kind of chronic illness warrior. It includes the following features:
- Goal Planning pages for 2019
- Birthday Tracker
- Mental Health in Color Tracker
- Full Color Inspiration Pages
- Full Color Monthly Spread Jan-Dec
- Monthly Medication Tracker
- Monthly Symptom Tracker
- Monthly Doctor Appointment Log Sheets
- The Chronic Weekly To-Do Sheets (4 spreads per month)
- Quarterly Mental Health Checkpoints
- Notes Pages
- Medical Expense Tracker
- Contact Sheet
- Spiral bound and printed on high quality paper with a soft touch cover for easy handling
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a prototype available for me to examine at the time of writing, so I asked McKenna to describe for me some of her favorite features and provide some sample pages, which you can see below: “I absolutely LOVE the inspiration pages and colors, as well as, the trackers. They are extremely easy to use and versatile enough for anyone to customize for their particular situation. I also created the Chronic To-Do specifically for those of us who have limited energy but still like to feel like we are productive. I feel like this planner is so unique because it was made by a chronic pain warrior FOR chronic warriors. The fact that this planner is specifically for our warrior community is what sets it apart. There is nothing else like this out there. It is literally a one stop shop for all of your chronic organization needs. I also didn’t want the planner to give off the impression that it is for someone who has an illness so the cover just says Warrior Life Planner with our crossed arrows logo.
“I also wanted to make sure that I included a mental health aspect because so many of these diseases have a mental and emotional component. Being in pain or feeling terrible 24/7 can take its toll on the mind and body and I wanted to make sure that everyone has a way to keep their mental health in check while they track everything else. This can also help you discuss your overall health with your physicians because you will have a detailed log to refer back to.”
It really does seem she’s thought of everything! Even the aspect of giving back, which she says her fledgling company will be working to do as soon as they are up and running to benefit the chronic illness community.”
There are so many exciting things about these pages I hardly know where to start. The medication tracker actually has enough space to handle all my meds and supplements, the Chronic To-DO lists are truly inspired (be sure to note each category, wow!) and the mental health check-ins are just fantastic. I can’t imagine anyone with a chronic condition who wouldn’t benefit from this planner.
McKenna’s Advice to Spoonie Entrepreneurs
Finally, I asked McKenna what advice she would offer to someone else with a similar chronic condition trying to start their own business? “I would say take your time and do something you love. That sounds incredibly cookie cutter and corny but it is true! We know more than anyone that our energy is finite and precious. That is what makes projects like this so special because we literally pour our entire souls into this. There is an extreme learning curve when you are starting your own business and you need to really make sure it is something you are passionate about, otherwise you won’t really feel motivated to keep going.
“I also believe that we have to run our businesses a little differently than others. Chronic illnesses affect every aspect of our lives, including how we run our startups. I know other business owners who put in 16 hour days and are constantly on the go and that is great for them, but that style of business ownership can’t and won’t work for me. I know my limits and I know when I have to take a break and focus on my body and my health. This business is so special to me and this life planner is on my mind day and night and in order to continue to help our community I have to make sure I am taking care of myself. So my other advice would be to KNOW AND ACCEPT YOUR LIMITS. You can still be a kickass business owner AND not kill yourself in the process. For me, I continue to find strength in this warrior community because we are BADASS and stronger than we realize. When I feel like I can’t move forward or I want to simply give up and give in, I look to our community and find all the strength I need. That is why I do this because I genuinely hope that someday I can help other warriors or make their lives just a little easier.”
To find out more information about the Warrior Life Planner and to be notified when they have been printed and are ready to ship, visit their website. You can also view more information and shots of the great features to be found in the Warrior Life Planner by going to their Instagram page.