Why I Refuse to Hide My Illnesses After Being Called an 'Attention Whore'


Being someone with a chronic illness in any case is hard, especially being in public and having people stare, make comments, or ask you the same questions you always get. For me, I get “What’s that tube going down your nose?” or “How do you have cancer, and all your hair?” Many chronically ill people face these questions. However, they are still open about their illness, and walk with pride. Such as me being a tubie. Many of us see our illnesses as something to be proud of and something we are conquering. It makes us special and unique. However, in a public high school setting, walking around with this confidence in being ill was seen as me being “an attention whore.”

I have had a glioblastoma (brain cancer), and I also have Crohn’s disease and other chronic illnesses. However, my cancer and Crohn’s are the ones people can physically see the most. So when I came to school with my NG tube in, or a whole lot of medications for my brain cancer, people think I am being an “attention whore.” I walk around with pride like other people with chronic illnesses. However, I feel shamed for walking around with pride. People think I must bring a NG tube with me to school because I want attention. This stigma has been bothering me. Yes, I am open about my illnesses; however I am not an “attention whore” because I am open about my illness.

Recently my Crohn’s has been bad, and I had to start using my NG tube more frequently. The other day, I went to school, even though I was not feeling too well. In my science class, we work in groups, which for many chronically ill teens can sound like a nightmare. We had just finished taking a group test and I was feeling like I was going to throw up. So I told my group members calmly, “I feel like I’m going to throw up, so I’m going to go to the bathroom,” to let them know where I was going. However, when I came back to the classroom they asked if I was all right and I told them I threw up blood. A student in the other group at the lab table behind us called me an “attention whore” because I openly told my group I was throwing up blood, and that I was feeling sick before I left.

This stigma of people who are open to others about their chronic illnesses needs to end. Chronically ill patents should be allowed to walk around with confidence, and be open about our illnesses without receiving slander for doing so. By me and other patients being open about our illnesses, we are helping to educate people around us as well. If the student in my class reacted maturely he would have seen that with Crohn’s disease you can throw up blood, and the assortment of reasons for this possibly occurring.

However, if I will be classified as the “attention whore” because I am open about my chronic illnesses, then I will gladly receive that title. I will always be open about my illnesses, and will never try to hide them. No chronically ill patient should ever have to hide their illness — I think we should be open about them, to help educate the people around us, without persecution because we are informing and helping educate people, in a way not everyone can do. I will always be open about my chronic illness no matter what. I will carry my bags of medication with me and have my feeding tubes in while out in public because I am proud and confident of my chronic illnesses. If I must be, then I will be an “attention whore” because I refuse to not be open, and help educate the society around people who have chronic illnesses.

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Thinkstock photo by jetFoto


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