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Kumail Nanjiani Tweets About Watching Wife Emily Gordon Fight Undiagnosed Illness

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In the time between first feeling symptoms and getting a diagnosis, there’s a range of emotions that might come up — for not only the person who is sick, but their loved ones as well. Watching someone you love battle an illness, without a diagnosis or any idea of what will happen next, can be a frightening experience in itself. In a now-viral Twitter thread, comedian Kumail Nanjiani, who co-wrote the movie “The Big Sick” with his wife, Emily Gordon, about their relationship and her illness, reveals exactly what that experience was like.

On Monday, Nanjiani shared a photo of the hospital badge Gordon’s mother received when Gordon first became sick. Nanjiani had written his name and phone number on it, because, as portrayed in the film, he had never met Gordon’s parents before she suddenly became seriously ill and went to the hospital, where she was placed in a medically-induced coma.

Nanjiani wrote that looking at the badge pulled him right back into that time.

“The strongest feeling I felt was this kind of fearful floating. Emily’s condition & disease at that point felt so big & unknowable,” he wrote. “The extreme fear & not knowing & the vagueness of it all created a bubble.”

He explained how during that time, he viewed everything through this “bubble.”

“I remember going to Walgreens and getting angry at someone just buying gum,” he wrote. “Why do you get to live a normal life?”

He said he spent so much energy trying not to think of the worst-case scenario, while every day there was a new theory about what it could be. He also described what it was like in the waiting room (“I played Mario in the waiting room for days on end, & couldn’t hear the sound of him collecting coins for years after that”) and how “unfair” her illness felt.

“Emily is always so full of life & fills a room with her energy & seeing her like that felt vulgar,” he wrote.

Nanjiani then highlighted what so many chronic illness warriors and their families know: how relieving it is to finally get some answers and a diagnosis (Gordon was diagnosed with adult-onset Still’s disease, a rare autoimmune disease).

“I’ll just say, her disease felt so unknowable & now it’s this thing we know. We still deal with it, but it has a name & that is so important for us,” he wrote. “It’s not all of her. It doesn’t define her. But it’s something we’ll deal with for the rest of our lives.”

Hundreds of people responded to Nanjiani’s tweets, sharing their own stories of health challenges and their memories of a loved one who battled an illness.

Nanjiani also called out media outlets who had written about his tweets without including Gordon’s name in the headline, along with his “The Big Sick” costar Zoe Kazan (both outlets ultimately changed their headlines).

Originally published: January 11, 2018
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