I Am Not a Chronic Illness Warrior


I’m just a woman who lives day to day. As the John Denver song says, “Some days are diamonds, some days are stones.” In my version, the song says, “Some days are diamonds, some days are big rocks that squash me.”

I have 21 different chronic health conditions. Five of them could be fatal at any time. Does the fact that I manage the effects of each one every day make me a warrior? I don’t think so – I think it makes me a good manager, even though I could never put it on a resume.

When I think of the phrase, “I am a warrior,” I think of being a fighter. But these illnesses are part of me now. So in my mind, being a chronic illness warrior means I am fighting myself. Which I freely admit I did when I first started getting those 21 diagnoses. When I received my disability notification from Social Security, my single diagnosis was chronic, severe asthma. I then spent a lot of time being angry at my body for failing me at a time when I had just reached my career goal and fighting the knowledge that I was no longer going to be able to do the job that I loved.

In fact, I fought myself for the next five or six years as my body reacted to the massive doses of steroids that had kept me alive but made the the list of my health conditions get longer and longer. During that time, I would definitely call myself a warrior, battling the diagnoses by simultaneously ignoring the symptoms and then over-reacting to the crises that occurred. I fought the idea that I was going to have to take care of myself if I didn’t want to continue the trips to the emergency room and the days of hospitalizations. And what I found was that the more I fought the idea of being sick by being the warrior against my body, the sicker I got. Once I stepped back and acknowledged the fact that I was sick and that I had to take care of myself, I realized how much energy I had been putting into my battle with my body.

Discovering the book “How to Be Sick” by Toni Bernhard with its message of “although one’s body may be sick, one’s mind can be at peace,” was a life-changer for me. I’ve done my best to embrace that philosophy in my daily life.

So now I’m no longer a chronic illness warrior, I’m just someone who gets through each day — sometimes managing to dodge those big rocks, sometimes getting squashed by them.

TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Related to Asthma

Smoke isolated on black background

What I Wish Others Understood About Asthma and the Air We Breathe

I grew up breathing second-hand cigarette smoke, but I didn’t develop asthma until I was in my late 40s and early 50s. At first, I was diagnosed with cough variant asthma, because instead of wheezing, I would have an uncontrollable cough that usually started with a cold. My asthma is not well-controlled with medications, and I have [...]
Kait Palmer

What I Realized About My Asthma After a Tickle Fight Triggered an Attack

When I was 3 years old, I had my first asthma attack. I don’t remember what it was like — on account of I was 3 — but it was a pretty important moment in my life all the same. I had to get a nebulizer and start taking regular medication. The doctors said I [...]

My Fight for Colleges to Accommodate Students With Chronic Illness

At the age of 4, I was diagnosed with severe asthma and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. During sophomore year of high school, I developed multiple allergies out of blue. I became allergic to corn, all tree nuts, and cats to name a few. Junior year became the ultimate battle for my health. In 2008, I could not [...]

My Daughter’s Asthma Symptoms Weren’t Like What I'd Seen in the Movies

I have a relatively healthy daughter who would get colds twice a year that were hard to clear up. What started as typical symptoms would turn into a post-nasal drip cough that would go on and on and on. Then she took a nose dive during what our family now refers to as the “Worst Spring Break [...]