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Why I'm Not Letting the 'What Ifs' of Illness Keep Me From Pursuing My Dreams

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Being chronically ill is so underrated. People hear you have a chronic illness and think you get sick sometimes, but you’re OK. They say, “It’s not like you’re dying.” But a part of me did – the part that dreamt of doing so many amazing things but now has to plan everything around a meds schedule, treatments and doctor appointments. That piece is now in a box labeled “dreams that won’t come true” because that’s what I believe they are.

I am nearly 19 years old. I should be pumped about college and my future. I should be getting everything together to move out and start my life. I should be going to parties and staying out late. My parents should be preparing to have an empty nest, but because of the fact that I live with chronic illnesses, everything is delayed. My goals are pushed off because my health come first.


I will be starting college as soon as I can. I will earn my degree and live my life because that is my goal. I don’t care what I have to go through to get there. The box in the back of my thoughts will become a priority because living a life with chronic illness is unpredictable, so why not live today instead of being afraid of tomorrow? I’m terrified of what could happen next with my medical journey, but believe it or not, I think I’m more afraid of not taking the chance to do everything in that box of dreams.

What’s more interesting is my dreams aren’t that big. I don’t want to bungee jump or go scuba diving in a group of sharks. I want to graduate college and be able to say “I did it” the day I get my degree. I want to be able to complain about that one professor nobody likes and live in a dorm. Yet I still worry if I can because being chronically ill means being chronically stuck in the “what ifs.” What if I have a flare-up the week of finals? What if my doctor appointments get in the way of classes? What if tomorrow I end up in the ER and have to endure yet another surgery or a new diagnosis? What if they are right? What if I’m just too sick?

Being chronically ill has shaped me into the person I am and it’s something I think about daily. There are days I feel like I can do it all and days I feel like I can’t do the smallest thing on my to-do list. Days I believe in fairytales and days I wake up and I don’t believe in anything at all. I think we all struggle with that, with the constant back and forth of unsureness.

But this life comes with amazing blessings. It comes with knowing your body more than you should have to. All of this teaches you to enjoy little things so much more than anyone could ever imagine because the what ifs are constant. This life has blessed me with a heart that gives and loves and cares more than even I know sometimes. Some of the greatest things about myself and my life I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for living a life as a chronically ill woman.

Chronic illnesses can be terrifying, and living with that title in your own mind can be even worse. Knowing you will have to work harder at everything you do than someone with a healthy body can be scary. It can get you thinking about the what ifs and the if onlys. You can get lost in the thoughts of how life would be so much better if you weren’t sick and lose track of who being sick has made you. Your dreams are more realistic and your goals are obtainable if you go for it in between pain meds and pep talks, reminding yourself you can do anything your body tells you you can’t.

An amazing boy once told me, “We are not chronically ill, we are simply chronically blessed.” And I don’t think I have ever believed that more than I do now.

Time to get the box cutters because we can do this.

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Originally published: August 22, 2017
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