My Encounter With a Stranger Who Had a Prejudice Against Chronic Illness

When you are chronically ill, not only do you have to deal with the physical and psychological burden of your illness, but sometimes you also have to deal with prejudice from others.

While traveling on my own in Vietnam I met an Australian mother and daughter. Sitting down with them at breakfast, we somehow got onto the subject of my chronic illness, and the mother was eager to tell me about her son’s girlfriend who has chronic fatigue syndrome – which shares some symptoms with McArdle’s disease.


Keen to exchange experiences and anticipating a warming, supportive story, I was completely blown away when she went on to say, “You know some people say they are sick of being sick? Well, we are sick of her being sick.” This followed into a rant about how her son “must be blinded by love,” “she wished he hadn’t chosen her as she is just going to be a burden to him now and even more in the future,” “they find it unfair that he is so patient with her but not with them,” “they are fed up with her being so miserable when she is in pain” and “she doubts they will have children because she wouldn’t be capable of being a mother.”

I am certain they didn’t intend to cause me offense and were just speaking with a huge amount of ignorance. Regrettably, too shocked in the moment to put these people right, I quickly made an excuse to leave.

I felt so awfully sorry for the son’s girlfriend who is entangled in this judgmental family while also having to deal with her illness. I also came away upset and shaken, all of a sudden more self-conscious about my own illness than ever. Did any of the people around me quietly feel this way too?

In my experience, the majority of people are incredible when they realize you have a chronic illness. Especially those you meet when traveling solo. They will go above and beyond to put you at ease, treating you as they would anyone else while also willingly showing patience, selflessness and helping out if needed. But unfortunately, you will occasionally come across narrow-minded people like this.

My advice? Cut these poisonous people out of your life as soon as possible. If you have the energy, try to open their mind. If not, walk away.

Have you ever experienced chronic illness prejudice? If so, feel free to vent by leaving a comment below – venting helps, trust me!

This post originally appeared on PYGM.

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Thinkstock photo via KatarzynaBialasiewicz.

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