The Mighty Logo

To My Dear Niece, From Your Chronically Ill Aunt

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Dear Niece,

I got home from one of my many doctor appointments and with your big brown eyes wide with excitement, you asked me, “Aunt Megan, you went to the doctor, are you feeling so much better now?!  Are you all better?!”

And that innocent question made my heart drop.

All I could think was, “How do I? How can I? How could I…explain to a 3-year-old that Aunt Megan will never get better?…You know you have to be “soft” with Aunt Megan. That sometimes she gets sore, and “the doctor said”  she needs to sleep in.”

But you have no idea.

Not even the slightest comprehension that one day you will learn that Aunt Megan will never “get better.” And a part of me fears that day because right now in your eyes, I’m the special aunt whose kisses make boo boos go away. Who makes boring meals exciting by turning ordinary fries into “magic fries” or “dinosaur french fries.” And the aunt who is always ready to play.

To you, I’m not sick. I’m “Fun Aunt Megan.” But when you know I’m sick…will that end? Will you, like others, look at me differently when I start to limp. Will you be weary of  “breaking me?” Will you begin to see all my differences that your young, perfect,  judge-free brain currently doesn’t even notice…and I’ll go from “Fun Aunt Megan” to a porcelain doll you have to try hard not to crack?

I hope and pray that won’t happen. When that day comes when you’re old enough to understand that Aunt Megan truly will never get better, I pray that instead of you seeing the “breaks” my illness has given me…I can show you the strengths my illness has gifted me.
That no matter how tough life gets, you can be brave and face hard things. That even people who look different (who move a little slower, or use a wheelchair and mobility aids), aren’t scary and can be great friends.

That  you can laugh, dance like a dinosaur and find beauty and joy even in the simplest moments. Even when you’re in pain, that patience and love are two of life’s greatest necessities. And that life is a gift we should never ever take for granted. When you look at me on that fateful day with those gorgeous, big, brown eyes and see what the world sees — all my broken pieces — that you are too young to understand, always know that no matter what state I’m in medically I will always be your “Fun Aunt Megan.” I will always be your shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold. Your partner in crime. Someone to share laughs, struggles, stories and the occasional “ dinosaur dance” with.
Having me as your aunt means you will get to embrace a different kind of love; the kind that overcomes any illness or physical limitations.

I can’t stop the fact that one day you will realize that according to the world around us I’m “different,” but I hope you can see more. And I hope that never changes the way you see my love for you.

Love Always,
Your Chronically Ill Aunt

Photo submitted by contributor.

Originally published: July 25, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home