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I Have Asthma and Diabetes, but I Am More Than an 'Asthmatic' or a 'Diabetic'

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It is too easy to myself identify as my illness. To describe myself as an “asthmatic” or as a “diabetic.” A friend said to me, “You are not your illness.” Wise woman. I try to call it “the asthma” and “the diabetes.

The illness can take over all of my thinking time and all my activities can be about being ill, e.g. constant medical appointments, if I let it.


I can spend so much of the day checking how I am going, monitoring medication, and in doing that, I forget to do things that are more life-affirming.

I am ill. But I am more than a chronically ill person. I am still a wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, friend, swimmer, a sewer, a church member etc.

So, now I talk about the asthma and the diabetes. They are not mine. It is not my asthma, nor my diabetes. Each of them is a dreadful illness. Each of them can be life-threatening if not managed properly. Each contributes to the other. Each chronic illness has had quite a severe impact on me, my friendships, my family life, what I can and cannot do – virtually every aspect of my life.

By calling them “the illnesses” I feel a little more in control, not that the asthma is particularly well controlled. I feel a little removed from them. I feel a bit distanced and put them aside for a few hours of each day. The illnesses don’t get to take over 24/7. I have some mental respite some of the time.

I much prefer to be called a mum, wife, aunt, swimmer, etc. than an illness. I am not just the asthmatic in the group. I am me who happens to have to manage the illness called “asthma.” I, Rosemary, am dealing with “the asthma.”

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Thinkstock photo via isaxar.

Originally published: August 11, 2017
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