Karen Duffy, 59, is sharing how a painful disease led her to turn to her love of writing and release a book that truly comes from her heart, in the latest episode of The HollywoodLife Podcast. The former MTV VJ and sometimes actress was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, which is the growth of tiny collections of inflammatory cells in different parts of the body, according to the Mayo Clinic, at “an amazing point” in her life, and because of the chronic pain it caused, she could “no longer be insured for working as a film actor.” Instead of letting the unexpected challenge cause “optional suffering,” she learned from “stoic philosophers” and became inspired to write her own book, Wise Up:
“I think in order to be a great writer, you need to be a great reader, and I was living with chronic pain. I didn’t want this to make me angry, or mean,” she EXCLUSIVELY said in the HollywoodLife podcast interview. “And what I’ve recognized that in life, pain is inevitable. We’re all going to experience pain in life, but suffering is optional. That is under our control.”
“I can’t control the level of pain that I will be in every day, but what I can understand is, this is my life,” she continued. “This is my day, how I spend it is up to me. And so, even if I can’t go out or put on clothes, I can still make this day count, because that is still under our control. So hopefully Wise Up is a great introduction to people who maybe don’t read a lot of philosophy or or are curious. I think I really tried to find the joy in it.”
Karen then revealed that coming up with her own stoic philosophy during her terrifying situation full of pain “absolutely” helped her through the new life she had to face. “I just feel like this classical wisdom has dilated my soul,” she explained. “You know, I think that every day is an opportunity where we can get smarter and better. And I just feel that just reading philosophy and understanding that what is in our control is most important. And it’s made me stronger, and I am less fearful. And I am more confident.”
“One of the sayings is, ‘Write it it on your heart, that every day is the best day of the year,’ and ‘He who is rich who seizes the day,” she added. “A lot of philosophers are men, but the stoics have many women. Marcus Aurelius, who’s very well known, starts off his most well known book, Meditations, thanking his mother for everything she has shared with him and taught him. And so I love that this is coming out right around Mother’s Day too.”
In addition to gushing over her favorite philosophers and her book, which was released on April 12, Karen told listeners how she’s able to stick to implementing the philosophy she goes by in her life for the long haul. “What’s so great about a practical philosophy is that you can incorporate it into your life, and again, I’m doing modern things,” she said. “Like when I go to the hospital, it’s challenging because there is a real power differential between the doctors, you know, they’re closed and you’re naked. You’re giving blood, you’re giving samples, so it’s a very intimate and somewhat humiliating position to be in.”
“So I thought, well, I want to change the way I feel because I’ve got to go to the doctors a lot. So I just started buying candy necklaces by the bulk, and I would fill my bag with candy necklaces,” she continued, while adding the candy is part of her “not a victim” mentality. “And when I would get the cab to go to the hospital. I’d be like, to the cab driver, ‘Want a candy necklace?’, no one has ever said ‘no’ to a candy necklace. And I would then give it to the nurses and then all of a sudden it went from ‘Oh, there’s that lady who’s coming in for her biopsy’ to ‘Oh, that’s the crackpot with all the candy necklaces.’”
Karen’s full interview can be heard on the May 2 episode of The HollywoodLife Podcast.