When a Child Noticed My TPN Backpack


I was on my way to the second of three doctor’s appointments. The first had not gone exactly as planned, and I was not particularly looking forward to the next two.

“I like your backpack.” I heard a small, sweet voice say while I was waiting in a checkout line.

The compliment took me aback for a moment. After I reasoned that I was indeed the only one wearing a backpack in this line, I turned to appreciate the compliment that came from a young girl reading a picture book, while waiting for her mother who was in the same line.

She smiled and went back to reading her book.

I carried her compliment with me all day.

You see, my backpack carried more than books. Everyday my backpack carries 12 hours worth of my nutritional needs. No, I am not referring to a sandwich and a granola bar. My backpack carries 1.5 liters of total parental nutrition (TPN). Every morning I hook up a milky white bag of TPN and lipids to my peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC line) because my body does not properly digest food. My backpack carries my sustenance.

When my doctor first told me that I had to go on TPN, one of my initial thoughts was of how I might make it less conspicuous. Perhaps I would look for a trendy purse backpack.

The following weekend my husband and I went to the store and perused the plentiful options. He suggested a conservative black backpack that would “go with everything.” I finally settled on a burgundy hiking backpack with light blue zipper pulls and elements of color throughout.

Why hide?

Typically, we hide the things that we are not proud of. We cloak the things that we are ashamed and embarrassed of in drab colors and hope no one notices.

That day while I was shopping I determined that TPN was not something that I was going to be ashamed or embarrassed of. I determined that I would not hide the fact that I needed so much assistance with the simple task of eating – a very normal and easy part of most people’s lives.

That day I decided that I was going to appreciate the gift of TPN. I was going to be deeply grateful for an opportunity to gain weight and strength after months of failed attempts to feed myself normally. I was going to be thankful for the doctor who prescribed it at the best time, for the pharmacist who meticulously constituted it, for the delivery man who spent his miles driving it to my house, and for the nurse who attentively evaluated my bloodwork to ensure it had the best possible mixture of vitamins and electrolytes to help my body function at its very best.

That young girl did not know the story behind my backpack or what it carried that day. But she had eyes to appreciate. She saw an opportunity to delight in something seemingly small, and took it.

She helped me learn how to better see the brilliant tree of life through the leaves of brokenness that can obscure its beauty if we let them. She helped me to more resolutely choose to be thankful in everything.

Today, I choose to appreciate.

Follow this journey on Melissa Chooses Joy.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Related to Chronic Illness

When You Can Hear the Fun but Are in Too Much Pain to Join In

Top 40 hits pounding, friends laughing, beer cans cracking. It was the true college experience — happening right in my living room. Oh, how badly I wanted to be in the living room. But here I was, alone, listening to the faint sounds of the fun I had planned on a better day. Lying tortured [...]
woman sitting on bed with port in chest holding paper that says this is a fight you can win

To the Woman at the Bar Who Asked, 'Is That a Port?'

It was the Friday evening before New Year’s Eve. I had been experiencing a few health-challenging weeks recovering from surgeries and dealing with my various chronic illnesses. My fiancé asked me to go out for the night with him and his co-workers for dinner and a few drinks. Though I was not feeling the best, [...]
Harry Potter wearing the hat to sort him in a Hogwarts house.

How I Use the 4 Hogwarts House Values in Life With Chronic Illness

“Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts. Teach us something, please!” I am a massive Harry Potter fan. I read the books as soon as they hit the shelves when I was a wee one and I grew up with Harry. When the books ended, it felt like I was saying goodbye to some old friends who [...]

When Your Illness Ages You Before Your Time

For a long time I have battled with my illness – not because it makes me sick, but because emotionally, I hate how sick it makes me. I’m a 20-something, who should be out with her friends. I have always been angry that it took my youth away from me. I was angry that I would be [...]