To Those Who Say, 'It's Just a Bruise'

“It’s just a bruise.”

When you’re a small child, usually accidents happen. You fall off your bike and scrape your knee, bump your head on the coffee table while wrestling around with your friends, or something of the like. Usually, a kiss from mom or dad would “fix it.” You would go about your day and eventually the cut or bruise would heal. When you get older, instead of relying on mom or dad, you stick a Band-Aid on it and go on with your life and you don’t think about it ever again.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case with me.

I started playing softball when I was 4 years old. I can proudly say that I got more time playing the game I love than most. I can also say, with tears in my eyes, the time that I did have was still not enough.

“It’s just a bruise.”

Softball is and was the love of my life. From T-ball to college softball, I lived for every second I was able to run, throw, hit, or pitch. Sore muscles, bruises, cuts, “strawberries,” and sunburns were all a regular, everyday part of my life. I lived and breathed this beautiful game. My life on the diamond was all that mattered, no matter what was going on in my life. It helped heal the wounds outside of the fence. Then, I got sick.

At 18, I thought the worst of my life was over. I had battled several injuries and even had a few surgeries. I suffered a stroke at 17, only eight months before, one that I thought would end not only my softball career, but my life as well. After several months of physical rehabilitation and conquering what I considered the toughest part of the healing process (the mental aspect), I was ready to begin my college softball journey. I had sat on the bench for long enough and after a strong comeback, I felt prepared. No matter how prepared I was then, nothing could’ve prepared me for the next obstacle I would face.

March of 2017 brought on symptoms that I couldn’t explain. Spontaneous nosebleeds, red and purple spots on my skin, and bruises that seemed to appear everywhere on my body – even places that were impossible to hit or bump. I was on a daily aspirin regimen because of my stroke. Was it causing me to bruise so easily? I was having painful headaches and debilitating fatigue that wouldn’t go away, no matter how many hours a day or night that I slept. I went to an urgent care doctor (while my nose was bleeding) to only be told it was allergies. I contacted my nurse practitioner at Le Bonheur, who also said it was allergies. After an big flare-up and multiple recurrent symptoms, I was fed up. This was not allergies.

I went back to the doctor and demanded an answer. After a physical examination, a slew of questions, and a blood test, my answer was becoming clearer. From there, I saw a whole team of hematologists in the emergency room at my local hospital who later transferred me to see more hematologists at the children’s hospital. There, I received a diagnosis.

“It’s just a bruise.”

I have idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura (ITP), a chronic autoimmune/bleeding disorder in which the immune system spontaneously attacks the platelets that help clot your blood. When I was diagnosed, my platelet count was zero (a normal platelet count is between 150-400). I had played softball out of town the day before. That was the last time I ever stepped on a softball field.

The doctors told me as I had tears in my eyes that I could no longer play sports. My heart was broken that day. After overcoming so much, I had come up short. My time on the diamond was done.

My whole life was ripped out from under me because of ITP. The medication made me so tired that going out with my friends was too much, so I stay inside my dorm room and sleep instead. My joints hurt so badly that I want to crawl out of my own skin. My head hurts on a daily basis, sometimes a side effect from the stroke, but usually because my platelet count is too low. I walk slower because if I trip and scrape my knee, it suddenly means life or death. My life has never been about being careful, but all of a sudden all I cared about was making it from one day to the next without a nosebleed, a new patch of petechiae, or any new bruises.

“It’s just a bruise.”

When others say “it’s just a bruise,” I want to laugh. I want to cry. I want to scream. Because to me, it is not “just a bruise.” It is a remembrance of the life that I lost. It is a reminder that my own body is betraying me. It is a warning to me to not do too much. So, the next time that you want to tell me that “it’s just a bruise” as I tell you how worried I am about the new one that recently showed up (especially when I already have 10 more of different shapes, sizes, and colors all over my body that you can’t see), stop. Instead, maybe hug me and say something supportive because believe it or not, support is hard to come by when you’re chronically ill.

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Thinkstock Image By: KatarzynaBialasiewicz

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