The 3-Word Text That Means the World to Your Chronically Ill Friend


I know we’re all busy. But how long does it take to send a three-word text? “How are you?” Just three simple words. Those words might not mean much to the average person, but to someone struggling with a chronic illness, they mean the world.

I suffer from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) and endometriosis as well as a host of other related problems. On any given day I may be having a rough time and might need a friend or family member to check on me, but my sense of pride and shy nature prevents me from reaching out. I, along with many other “spoonies,” may also tell you we don’t like to burden our friends and loved ones with our problems. So you reaching out is a welcomed break from my pain and suffering. It lets me know that I’m not alone and gives me a chance to take my mind off all that’s going on by hearing from a friend.

I’m not asking you to take all day and go to the doctor’s office with me. Or learn all about my disease. All I’m asking is that you check in.

Before going in for a major surgery, my friend Sarah checked in with me. Not only did she send a message, but she went the extra mile. Sarah stopped by with a huge bag of gluten-free goodies for me to take on my trip to my surgeon. I had to fly from my home (at the time in Pennsylvania) to see a specialist in Atlanta for the seventh time. My emotions were all over the place. Having a friend take the time to put together a care package for me meant the world to me. I knew I wasn’t alone. She knew my dietary restrictions (which some people close to me hadn’t been able to understand) and she gathered things to take my mind off my surgery, like books, magazines, fuzzy socks and snacks.

After that same surgery, I took awhile to recover. My EDS causes me to have a delayed healing. This can also have a negative effect on emotional well-being. There were times during that recovery when I wished certain friends and family members would have reached out or sent that simple text: “How are you?” How welcome that would have been on my dark, long days when I was laying in bed thinking about all I had been through and wondering about what was to come. With endometriosis, sometimes it can be hard to not think about the loss you’ve suffered when people ask about having kids or how many surgeries you’ve had. You wonder just how much more you’ll have to endure with this disease. A simple text from a friend or family member to break up that thought process would have been so helpful.

Granted, when you ask someone who’s sick “How are you?” You may get “fine” or “OK” which, obviously, isn’t the whole truth. But the point is you took the time to check in. You let them know that they’re not alone in their struggles.

Chronic illness can bring with it a lot of anxiety and depression caused by loss of jobs, friends and the life you thought you would have. You may not know that at any given time your friend with a chronic illness is struggling because their family member didn’t bother to check on them after a major surgery. Or you may not know that your friend with a chronic illness spent all night trying to sleep because they were in so much pain. Your simple “How are you?” is like a bright light in long, twisting, dark hallway for that friend.

 So please, I beg you, if you have a friend or family member who suffers from a chronic illness, take a few seconds and send them that text message. You have no idea how much it will mean to them.

To learn more about how my EDS affects me and learn how you can help with my upcoming out-of-state surgeries, visit www.youcaring.com/HelpValerieFightEDS.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us one thing your loved ones might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. What would you say to teach them? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


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