When a Family Member Chose Not to Pity My Chronic Illness


Most people don’t know how to respond when they find out how sick I am. An overwhelming amount of pity soon fills their eyes afterwards. Then, I am no longer considered a person, but a broken toy that needs to be fixed. So in return, I must remind myself of my worth. I am perfect and don’t need to change. Even though they care, in the end, the interaction is more work for me. However, I did say most people. Some people, respond like my uncle recently did.

My uncle and his family love to come and stay with my family. We have lots of fun and eat a copious amount of food together – what two better things are there? They arrived sometime in the afternoon, and after we helped them get settled, my uncle went out on to the deck with my brothers, my dad, and myself. I don’t remember why, but for some reason the rest of my family went inside, and it was just my uncle and me sitting on the deck. After a moment of silence, he asked me about my health. I gave him my normal response (i.e. it’s not good, annoying, but I’m smiling). Then he gave a response I’m all too familiar in hearing, but with a twist. He said, “I know exactly how you feel. I had this two-week cold once…” and then we both started laughing. I remember we made a big deal out of his cold like it was the black plague or something. Once the comedy started dying down, he said, “No, really. To me that two-week cold was torture. I had never been that sick for that long. I know it’s not like what you experience, but I like to think it is and then to think about battling it as long as you, and… wow man.”

This is the most tender moment I have ever shared with my uncle. It made me feel normal for a change. Not many people would dare to say what he did, out of fear it would be offensive to me. I wish more people responded like this and not in the normal “pity you” attitude I often get. Responses like this do depend on the person receiving them, but for me, this is the way to go.

If you’re reading this and have a chronic illness, or are a cancer patient, or have anything that makes you sick for a long period of time, is this the way you’d like others to respond? If not, in what way do you wish they would respond?

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