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20 Photos That Show What Badass Women With Chronic Illness Really Look Like

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It’s no secret that battling chronic illness is tough – but in the small, humdrum moments of everyday life, it can be easy to overlook just how much determination, patience and strength truly get cultivated through your struggles.

Maybe you had to call in sick to work today because you’re in too much pain to get out of bed, or maybe fatigue has made it impossible for you to take a shower this week. In the moment, these tiny setbacks can feel frustrating and defeating. I know that when I’m lying in bed, immobile and groaning, in the middle of a flare, my hair greasy and my pajamas unchanged, I don’t exactly feel like a “warrior” fighting some larger-than-life battle. I barely feel human, unable to keep up with even the most basic hygiene or responsibilities. I’m simply trying to hold on and ride out the storm.

But chronic illness really can be a beast, and learning to not just cope with it but thrive in spite of it is a lifelong endeavor that causes you to constantly be learning and growing. While illness isn’t the only thing that defines you, it can certainly have a huge influence on who you are as a person, and lend an even greater significance to your accomplishments, big or small.

There are so many women out there with chronic illness who are fighting a daily battle – even if that battle is just getting out of bed – and deserve to be recognized for their strength and resilience. Even if it doesn’t always feel like it, you are all total badasses for navigating the challenges life has thrown your way and doing your best to make the most of each day.

To demonstrate just how strong chronically ill ladies are, we asked our Mighty community to share photos of themselves being awesome in life with chronic illness. The women in the following photos are incredibly fierce and accomplished – but they are only a few of many. If you have a chronically ill woman in your life, reach out to her today and remind her of what a badass she really is.

Here’s what the amazing women in our community shared with us:

1. “Self-portrait photographed recently after one of my more severe endometriosis flares. It was the worst I had had in nearly a year, it had me in bed – unable to move at all – until 4 p.m. When I shot this my entire body was incredibly fatigued and sore and my abdomen felt like I was being punched by someone wearing brass knuckles from the inside. I realized the adrenaline from creating things I love actually helps me push through, and any time I can now, I photograph portraits in an attempt to raise awareness for illnesses like endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, fibromyalgia and chronic migraines – all of which I have.” – Clara M.

photo of a woman with blonde hair wearing a black shirt and purple lipstick and leaning against the wall in a pose

2. “Currently in a hospital, receiving plasmapheresis for myasthenia gravis.” – Maria A.

woman taking a selfie in the hospital with sunlight hitting her face and chest

3. “My first half marathon (I’ve done two now). My doctor told me there was no way I would be able to do it so I accepted the challenge. I couldn’t walk for two days afterwards and it took me weeks to fully recover but it was so worth it!” – Taylor G.

woman smiling and holding a medal around her neck after running a marathon

4. “Honestly, everyone says I’m so strong, but I just don’t feel like it. But in the picture, I’m recovering from a dislocated hip (Ehlers-Danlos syndrome) and still doing what I can to help out at the amazing rescue I work at. Through my pain, I found my passion for animals, and that’s pretty badass.” – Sarah B.

woman sitting on the ground outside with a few dogs on her lap

5. “That’s me. I’m now a month post-op following my third major surgery on my spine. I had another spinal fusion to help reduce my chronic pain. It’s been a difficult seven years when the pain first started but I try not to let my pain define me. I won’t let it control my life.” – Matilda B.

woman with short blue hair sitting in a restaurant smiling and pointing at a burger

6. “Graduated with a second masters despite severe fibromyalgia and symptoms.” – Lakshmi R.

woman wearing a graduation cap and gown and holding a degree outside of her college

7. “Despite having complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), I push through the pain to continue a sport that I love. Gymnastics has always been a huge part of my life and after being forced to stop because of my CRPS, I realized how much I missed it. I decided to try the sport again in college and have been receiving nothing but love and support from my teammates and coaches. I get extreme flare-ups after practice that leave me unable to walk but everyone helps me and they sit by my side. I can’t do nearly as much as I used to be able to, but it doesn’t stop me from enjoying the sport.” – Rachel E.

woman performing gymnastics

8. “Dermatomyositis/lupus SLE. A year ago I could hardly walk on my own. With IVIG every four weeks I’m doing better-ish. I’m desperate to get strength back. My husband snapped this pic because he’s always so proud of the way I hit the gym even on infusion days. We have to fight so much harder for every gain we get with AI. In this pic I had just wrapped up IVIG day one of two.” – Nicole R.

woman in a gray tank top and an IV in her chest lifting weights in the gym

9. “This [is] me, my husband and two daughters, on Acropolis Athens right outside of Parthenon. I had to walk to the top of Acropolis (it’s a mountain with a lot of steps ) because my daughters wanted to see Parthenon. It took me 40 minutes to get there. I was in constant pain and dizziness but I did it.” – Elena K.

woman with her husband and two kids in front of the Acropolis in Greece

10. “This is in Alberta. I love hiking despite the pain. This was one of the steepest summits I’ve done so far.” – Jillian M.

woman wearing a puffy jacket with a camera around her neck smiling with her hands on her hips at the summit of a mountain overlooking a mountain range and forest in alberta

11. “My husband and I bought a house this day! On this day I had a 101.2 fever, I couldn’t eat anything from being nauseous, I had three infections at the same time. This is all on top of my autoimmune diseases and pain I deal with. You can’t see the pain in my hips, knees, hands and overall body. Nor the exhaustion. The closing was a total of three hours and I refilled my cup with hot tea six times just to make it through. Plus kept taking medicine every four hours! But this was our first home and I did everything I could to be there with a smile on my face. Literally after this picture I laid in bed for days. But it was worth it!” – Bianca P.M.

woman and her husband standing on the front porch of their new home holding their keys

12. “This is me and my husband. Out at [a] concert having a blast. What you don’t see is my cane, my too baggy clothes or my limp. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and I were fighting. My makeup is on point and I am living my best life here. Nothing will get in my way of celebrating each day. RA: 0. Me: 1.” – Tawnee T.

woman and her husband smiling at a concert

13. “Sickle cell pain crises are painful, brutal on the body and its organs. Sometimes you can’t be strong. Sometimes you just gotta break down and cry. Embrace the pain.” – Candice R.

woman lying in bed

14. “Getting baptized. The water was ice cold and I wasn’t feeling well, had been aching and in pain all morning. Getting in that ice cold water (heat pump broke) was hard but I did it!” – Dee F.

woman getting baptized at her church

15. “[I have] hEDS and autism. Aerial hoop has helped keep me motivated to keep pushing through and I feel so much stronger mentally and physically. The feeling of flying is my escape from [the] reality of hEDS. It’s my way to cope with life.” – Nicky A.

woman in black and white striped outfit performing aerial hooping

16. “Prior to pain med reduction I fulfilled a dream I’d had since I was 18.” – Suzanne B.

silhouette of a person flying against the sunset

17. “I’m pretty awesome, because despite all the odds stacked against us, I made a healthy baby, who is growing to be a healthy, amazing young lady.” – Bailey S.

woman wearing glasses and a red shirt taking a selfie with ehr young daughter

18. “Being interviewed by a local news station for my nonprofit organization, Brave Soul Blankets, that I started a year after I got sick with several chronic illnesses (AAG, POTS, hEDS, global intestinal dysmotility, feeding tube dependent and more). Brave Soul Blankets sends blankets to adults with life-altering illnesses, like myself, who need a little comfort and support during rough times. When I got sick I had to stop working as a pediatric neuro-trauma nurse, it broke my heart. But I was determined to make a difference and do this through BSB, ‘one blanket at a time!’ I don’t let my illnesses hold me back from brightening other people’s days with a cozy handmade blanket personalized just for them.” – Melaney N.

woman standing by her sewing machine and pointing to a stack of fabrics

19. “Sixteen (almost 17) years ago I was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension. Now I’m a volunteer play therapist at the hospital that saved my life multiple times.” – Shannon O.

woman smiling and holding a hospital volunteer badge

20. “I went into the ER for abdominal pain, they did testing and came back to tell me, ‘You need emergency surgery and we will be taking you into the OR in 10 minutes.’ I was scared as heck. But I quickly calmed myself by remembering that I’ve been a rock star at fighting chronic illness for all this time, that I’ll be a rock star for this one too… and I was.” – Bethany R.

woman lying in a hospital bed and making the 'rock n roll' sign with her hand

Originally published: March 8, 2018
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