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Dear Illness: Here's a Reminder of 4 Things You Cannot Steal From Me

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Dear illness,

You have taken a lot from me. You have shaken and tested me. You have inflicted so much pain, loss and grief. You have challenged the foundations on which I built my identity, my relationships, my future and present.

This letter however, is not about the loss you have brought, nor the pain you have inflicted. I certainly don’t wish to give you that kind of satisfaction. No. I am here to remind you what you cannot take, what is rightfully not and shall never be yours to touch – the elements of my life
which will not be shaken.

Illness. You bring the crash of the waves and the brunt of the storm. You bring the diagnoses and symptoms. You influence my emotions and have triggered my questions and doubts. Perhaps you seek to drown me in the sea of them, overwhelm me with their intensity and poison me with the taste of their bitterness. Your insidious nature lurks under that label of “chronic”. I know you love that label. It strikes fear into the heart of the inflicted. Fear of the unknown future and frightening concept that there is perhaps “no cure.”

However, despite your schemes and obvious attempts to damage me: I have learned to stand unafraid of you.

In fact, I want to point out just where you went wrong. The scheme you designed to destroy me has become the one which will strengthen me.

Illness, you have unveiled to me the fragility of my human identity – my weakness, vulnerability and temperance. You have left me sobbing through the nights and brought with you a seemingly endless flow of disappointments.

In your exposing of the temporary you have shifted my focus onto what is constant and stable throughout the ebb and flow of symptoms – the everlasting through the storm you inflict.

Illness, your attempts to clothe me in darkness have only made what is light shine so much brighter. I don’t think you should be surprised by the power of this light. In fact, if I were you, I’d be afraid. As no matter how fierce you get, no matter how much you seek to crumble me, to destroy this damaged body and taunt my pain-stricken mind, you shall never touch what I hold most dear.

1. You cannot take love from me.

I am loved. That is a truth, a steadfast fact. In those nights where we have sat together in the darkness of pain you tried to make me doubt that fact. You brought me to a place of loneliness and made me feel forsaken. However, again and again I have seen that you are lying, illness. I am loved. Loved by the people in my life who have remained by my side. The friends and family who are devoted – who love me despite my imperfections and your threats upon my body.

Together unfailing is the love of my Father. I know this shall never leave. Constant through your waves and faithful in your schemes, this love shall be with me always. This love has extended to the deepest corners of my heart, opening windows of compassion and doorways of understanding, changing the way I perceive and feel. This Love is certainly unrestricted by you, illness.

2. You cannot destroy my hope.

My hope is the confidence in what has not yet occurred. It’s like a shining light in the darkness – a reason to keep pressing on. A reason to get up each morning and fight. Fight for each of the little tasks which you now ensure take so much effort. Hope is that burning fire within me which you sure cannot dull. Hope is this gold substance, precious within my heart. Hope is an ambassador which encourages me to persevere and a friend
who proclaims that victory. Illness, despite your presence I hold fast to my
portion of hope.

3. You have helped to re-frame my definition of strength.

Illness. I’m sure you were not intending for me to see strength this way. I’m sure you want me to envisage running half-marathons and attaining perfection. But, thanks to you, I have learned to re-frame my definition of strength. My strength is not measured by compared “successes” from those of my past-self. Nor is it benchmarked to a standard set by those around me. No – my strength starts from deep within. It’s that quiet confidence that, no matter how many times I am challenged, knocked down, deflated or disappointed by you, I will get back up again and try. Yes, you have made things difficult, illness. Made it harder to walk, to stand and do the most basic of tasks. You have made my muscles weak and beat my heart far too fast.

My strength however, isn’t a measurement of perfection, but that of perseverance. You have taken from me perfection, but you shall never steal this heart to persevere.

4. Never shall you taint my faith.

This is a big one, illness. The one you have relentlessly tried to attack. That pain you have brought planted doubts in my head. Challenging my beliefs, confusing my world perception, cornering me in a position of vulnerability. Nonetheless, like gold when thrown into the fire, my faith has been strengthened through you, illness. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

As you, illness, altered my physical world, as you inflicted pain, put road blocks in the path of my activities and darkened my emotions with a quiet sadness, I needed to place my confidence in something above my failing body.

I learned to look beyond the here and now. To place my confidence, my assurance of faith in what was not yet seen. The process of believing without seeing, trusting withhold necessarily experiencing has grown my faith. The storms may come, the fire may burn and disappointments may arise, but solid faith shall remain through it all.

So illness. I’m not sure if I would go so far as to thank you for your unwanted presence in my body. I would honestly love for you to leave me be. However, in the light of your current presence, I can confidently say to you this:

You haven’t won this race. I am equipped with these foundations that you shall never shake. I am in this till the end. 

Your presence, whether chronic or temporary, severe or mild, debilitating
or manageable, will not define me. You will not destroy me.

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Thinkstock photo via dolgachov.

Originally published: May 16, 2017
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