To the Friend I Turned to When I Felt Alone With My Medical Issues

I want to take a moment to thank you. We’ve been friends for eight years. You are one of my closest friends. Even after you entered college and I stayed at high school, we kept tabs on each other. And this past summer, we got to work together.

I had changed a lot since you left for college. We had both gotten older, had new experiences. My new experience was my medical issues. I had started to lose my hearing. Now when you and I talked, I had to read your lips. You took this unexpected knowledge in stride. You

always looked me in the eye and spoke a bit more slowly while talking to me so I could read your lips. You asked if there was anything you should avoid so as not to aggravate my symptoms. Most importantly, after you’d asked this, you still treated me like the same girl I’d been for the past eight years. Thank you for taking such care.

The truth is, sometimes it’s hard for me to accept the new “normal,” especially when people doubt, question, ridicule or ignore my difficulties. Even people who do accept my problems treat me like a glass bird and give me this awful look of pity, but you never did. I can’t express how much I love you for loving me. For loving the parts of me that scared others away.

But that wasn’t all you did. While we worked together, I was diagnosed with pulmonary valve regurgitation. It wasn’t serious, but the process of receiving that diagnosis was long. My imagination ran wild. I was terrified and without anyone to turn to. You see, my parents were afraid, too, and I couldn’t aggravate their fear. I can’t blame them for that; I mean, not many parents take their 18-year-old daughter to a cardiologist. I needed to talk to someone. And when I got up the courage to ask you to stay after work the next day so I could tell you something, you were kind enough to do so without placing any pressure on me. You knew something was wrong, but you decided to stick with me. I don’t think I’ll forget how, the next day, after all the others had left, you sat next to me and told me stories. I knew you were waiting for me to tell you, but you never said you were. Thank you for allowing me the freedom to say it when and if I wanted to. I didn’t know I wanted that option, but I did.

And when I did tell you, you still treated me like the girl you’d known for eight years. In the three hours that followed, you validated and eased my fear, got me to laugh, and reassured me that, even if things did end up poorly, I would still have you. Then you distracted me with talk about movies, old friends and our futures in college so I could start to move on from the shock of my diagnosis. Everything about you was kindness, as it always has been.

I can’t tell you how lonely I’ve been. How afraid I am that people will leave or ignore me when they find out. But despite my problems, you still see me as the girl you grew up with, a friend with whom you have inside jokes and shared favorite plays.

You made me feel “normal” and loved in a time when I felt alone and afraid. Thank you for loving me. I love you.

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