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To the Person With a Chronic Illness Returning to School This Year

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Dear friend,

You may not know who I am, but I’m writing this to you. I’m writing this because I care for you, and I believe you deserve every single word of encouragement for this upcoming school year. I know how sad and scared you might be to go back. I understand how much your illness can bring you down. But I’m writing this to tell you I believe in you. Yes, you right there. Each and every single one of you.

Maybe this is your first time back to school after some time off, maybe you are starting college or maybe you are going back to fight through yet another year.

I want you to know how brave you are and how proud I am of everything you have overcome. Take a second and look at your path and all the obstacles you have overcome. You are a warrior, and you are a fighter.

The road ahead may not as clear as a transparent window; it may still be a little bit translucent, but I believe with each step you take forward and each battle you fight, it will clear up a little bit each time.

This school year, don’t be afraid to reach out to the resources at your school that are there to help you succeed. Whether it’s asking for an extension or asking to write your test in a different room, reaching out for help does not make you a failure. Reaching out for help makes you a fighter and can put you on a clearer path.

I ask that you remember to listen to your body. Don’t push yourself over your limit. I know how hard it can be to see your friends living and feeling like you are just surviving. But I tell you what — you are not “just surviving,” you are living. It’s just in a different way.

Put your health first this school year, and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself if a classmate speaks against you regarding your illness. Don’t let their words hurt you. With everything you have been through and overcome, those words mean absolutely nothing. You are so much more; you are worth everything. Take a stand and don’t let yourself be taken down by acts of ignorance from your peers. Not only are you strong — you are the definition of strength.

Be honest with your friends. Remind them how much you appreciate their friendship. When you feel like you are letting them down on a sick day, remember that you come first before anything. Instead of getting mad, explain how much you would love to hang out and perhaps invite them over for a Netflix night. It is hard for friends to adapt when they have a friend with a chronic illness. It is hard for them to understand, and they might see you as someone continuously making up excuses. But a simple message saying, “I’m really sorry, I really wish I could hang out but I’m not feeling so well. Maybe you guys can come over for a movie later because I really do want to spend time together. I miss you guys,” could change everything.

If they don’t understand, it is not your fault. Please don’t hate yourself. There are plenty of friends out there who will appreciate you and treat you the way you deserve to be treated.

Also, don’t forget about your teachers. Maybe stay behind in class, and if you have to, tell your friends that you have a homework question. This way you can tell your teacher what is going on as a way of helping her understand without having to speak in front of the entire class.

My dear friend — take things slowly, breathe, try your best and don’t forget to smile. I believe in you, I really do, and that smile you have looks good on you. Use it often this year. Embrace it. And each and every night, do not forget to congratulate yourself on how magnificent you are for getting through the day.

Good luck this school year. May it be filled with progress, good memories, laughter and of course, plenty of rest. I wish you all the best.

Yours truly,
A friend with a chronic illness, too

Originally published: August 23, 2016
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