When Health Problems Take Everything Away...Karen's Story

Karen Nolan Bell used to act, dance, and sing. (She has sung at Carnegie Hall!) Then health problems came, got worse, and took her life away from her. I never met the famous part of who Karen is. I met her after health problems had turned her into a different person--a person you would want to know. She lives choosing joy. Though mostly housebound by her condition, she is a ray of sunshine from inside her house to people all over through the internet. She has been such a blessing to me, I wanted you to meet her.

Oh, and when my Sick & Tired series books start coming out, you'll be seeing her name in there!

Here's Karen:

1. Tell us about your life before health problems.

I spent six years in NYC studying voice, acting, and writing. I served as Music Director of a Swedish church with amazing musicians (some were students at Julliard) and sang with the New York Choral Society at Carnegie Hall. Every day in NYC I walked for blocks and blocks, learning the city. Oh, how I wish I could walk like that today.

My husband entered my life at the church and within a year, we were married. His job required us to relocate to Columbus, OH. Those years were spent in a constant schedule of acting, directing a church choir, running a singing telegram company, and singing with the Columbus Symphony Chorus. I think my heavy schedule was a partial distraction from the fact that my health was failing and I had been unsuccessful in having a viable pregnancy.

The Lord finally blessed us with a son. I struggled to be an active mom. About six months after his birth, I was diagnosed with diabetes and my life totally changed.

2. What were your big dreams for your life?

From the time I can remember as a child, I wanted to write. Acting gave me an opportunity to be more than I felt comfortable being as myself. I was a shy, introverted girl with overwhelming feelings of inferiority. My parents never once told me they loved me. I later learned I should have “known” they loved me because they hadn’t kicked me out of the house. Go figure. All this to say, my big dream for my life was to become a person worthy of admiration and love.

3. When did you start realizing you had health problems?

I had always had some health “issues.” I had a traumatic birth and nearly died three times. Puberty brought on a barrage of complications and weight gain. I was told I just needed to lose weight. My mother enforced crazy diets (like the boiled egg and buttermilk diet) which only resulted in my gaining more weight and my periods becoming more irregular and painful. Depression set in and I struggled with that for years. However, I didn’t realize I truly had health problems until the day I couldn’t get out of my chair without help. Medication caused me to gain 250 lbs. My doctor suggested I diet. He didn’t realize I barely ate anything and my choices were completely healthy. My body swelled with fluid and I could barely walk through the house without holding on to something. I barely fit into my car and couldn’t shop any longer. Walking at church became overwhelming and I stayed home most of the time. I became a recluse for the next five years. No one called me or included me in their plans. Doctors could find nothing wrong with me and gave me prescriptions for anti-depressants and suggested a psychologist. That’s where I learned about perfectionism, co-dependency, and depression.

4. What was your first "official" diagnosis and how did you feel about being officially sick?

The first official condition diagnosed was my diabetes. I wasn’t happy about that. Funny thing is, the bad part was not the medical part, but the intrusion part. I didn’t want to have to check my blood sugar daily and take medication. I also didn’t like the thought that someone else was telling me what I could or could not eat. I suppose my psychologist should have told me about control freaks at that point.

5. How have health problems changed you as a person?

I could say my health problems have taken away everything I used to love about life and destroyed my dreams. However, if I’m honest, they have actually brought me right where I needed to be all along—at the feet of Jesus. I now realize that all the things I wanted to do with my life were what “I” wanted. I forgot to ask God what “He” wanted me to do. My first love was writing and I had put it on a back burner as I attempted to acquire fame, applause, and adoration for myself instead of for Him.

This is the first part of Karen's story, but the best part is yet to come. I'll post it tomorrow because I don't want you to miss it!

To be continued...


  1. Can't wait to read more about my sweet friend, mentor and inspiration.

    1. Thank you sweet Wendy. You are an inspiration to me, too. I know how you struggle and I know your dependence on the Lord.

  2. Hi Kim,
    Thank you for posting this guest interview. Wow! Finding out about the details in Karen's story has been such a blessing to me. Thank you, Karen, for being so candid. Your attitude is amazing! Your singing background and your choosing joy makes me think of the song about the sparrow. Looking forward to learning more about how God is molding you. Thank you again!

    1. Thank you, Amy. I have learned the hard way that our struggles do no one any good if we aren't willing to share them. Everyone needs to know they are not alone and that they can overcome anything.

  3. Thank you for posting this. I knew Karen in college and have reconnected with her in the last few years. She has hinted at the time she was bound, but I am anxious to hear more about her quest for freedom. She has always been a light in my life, because of her love of the Lord.
    Looking forward to the rest of the interview. Thank you, Catherine

    1. Thanks, Catherine. You've been a light in my life as well. Hugs.

  4. WOW! I first met Karen on line, thru a mutual friend's thread on facebook. I had the privilege (yes, privilege! Thank You Jesus!) of meeting here in person some 6 months later, & she's become my dearest friend. I'm excited to read this interview; I feel like I started the book in the middle! Such wonderful backstory!

    Jesus knew I needed a friend in this time in my life...and I know He hand-picked her because I couldn't ask for a better fit. Love you Karen.

    1. I feel the same, Cyn. I prayed for a friend after all those years of being homebound. Of course, having a hubby with Aspergers didn't help. He amazed me by giving me YOU! I have so many new friends from facebook who encourage me. It's a special treat when I get to meet them face to face and cement the friendship with a hug. It's especially wonderful to have met you and clicked immediately. God is awesome!

  5. Great intrrview. I cant wait to read more about her story. I know how it feels to struggle and feeling confined. God Bless


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