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To the Doctors and Nurses of Teen Patients With Chronic Illnesses

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Dear Doctors and Nurses of Teen Patients with Chronic Illnesses,

Hi. It’s me. You know, the patient with the complex and hard to manage disease that frustrates you? The patient you don’t know how to treat? The patient with the symptoms you have no name for yet? When I’m sitting in your examination room, I’m probably there because something is bothering me.

I may not be the happiest and brightest smiling patient you see that day. I wish I could smile all of the time. I really do. But sometimes that is extremely hard to do. No, I’m not depressed. It’s just a bad day.

You always see me at my very worst. All of our conversations revolve around the latest new symptom, medication or treatment. I understand that sometimes you have to treat patients as if they are just a number in order to maintain your objectivity and not get too emotionally involved. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to have me as a patient for years and not have your judgment clouded by emotion. However, I want to take a minute to tell you about all the things I don’t get to share with you.

You see, when I’m lying in that hospital bed in the middle of an admission, I’ve had to press the pause button on my life. Unfortunately, the rest of the world doesn’t stop to wait for me. But, did you know that before I was admitted recently, I received a scholarship acceptance letter? This may sound crazy, with as horrible as I look right now, but in three weeks, I’m testing for my black belt in taekwondo. I currently have straight As in all my college classes, and next month, I’m taking a class to get my Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician certification. In December, I’m looking forward to spending my winter break skiing and training for next ski racing national championship. I could go on and on about what I’ve been doing and my upcoming goals. 

Hopefully, when you think of it this way, you can see I am more than just the latest patient to walk into the examination room. While you only hear about the stuff pertaining to my health and it may seem like my illnesses dominate my life, I actually do a lot outside of the hospital. Time doesn’t give us the chance to share some the happenings of my life or latest accomplishment with you, and that’s not why I come to see you, but I promise I’m leading the most fulfilling life possible. I am doing my best to live my life to the fullest despite my chronic illnesses.

The Teenage Patient with a Life Outside of the Hospital

I chose to write this letter because there is a stigma associated with being a teen seeking medical treatment. We aren’t children anymore, but we aren’t adults either. Our bodies respond differently sometimes. While many of us are made wise beyond our years because of our challenges, we will still need that extra guidance to make the right decisions.

Additionally, the doctors and nurses don’t always get to see us for the active, funny, and vivacious people we are capable of being. The look of pain on our faces is sometimes misinterpreted as teenage moodiness. The teenage years are confusing for everyone, whether their bodies work well or not. Sometimes that extra five minutes just to see how we are doing can go a long way.

We appreciate all of the doctors and nurses who work with us to help us get back to being our very best. Thank you!

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to anyone you wish had a better understanding of your experience with disability and/or disease. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: November 28, 2015
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