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How Chronic Pain Has Taught Me the True Value of Health

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I am 19 years old and I am a student in my second year studying at university. I also live with chronic pain. When I started out with my degree, I was convinced I wanted to be a doctor – I wanted to improve people’s lives! I was so optimistic and excited but then it happened. At first, it was once a week, then it was a few times per week, then it progressed until it was every hour of every day. The pain came and the pain stayed. Now, that will never be and I accept that.

I grew up in the time of reform, a time where I did not have to worry about the state of my healthcare coverage and simultaneously, I did not have to worry about my health. But then the pain came and it has eluded every doctor I have seen– and there has been a lot of them. My life was altered but I was prepared! I had health insurance, and I do not have to worry about my health insurance until I am 26 and I have to leave my parents’ plan. And when that day comes, I will be able to get insurance despite my mystery condition. Or so I thought.


I have had approximately 16 doctor visits in the past six months with a co-pay of $40 each. That is $640 in six months spent on health – not including payment for prescriptions or supportive braces or heat relief adhesive pads. That is with good public school teacher insurance through my mother. Without insurance I would be paying approximately $1,000 per test they run, and that is not including payment to the doctor for the visit, just the lab fees.

If I do not have access to health insurance because I am kicked off of my mother’s plan before age 26, I may never get a diagnosis. If I do not have access to health insurance after I am no longer on my mother’s plan due to a pre-existing condition, I will live every moment of every day of my life in agony. I already spend my days masking the pain. I am a full-time student with an internship, two minors, an additional certificate and I will be graduating with university honors. If I do not have health insurance, none of that will be possible.

I lived 18 years of my life relatively ignorant of the battles of those with a chronic illness. Of those searching for an answer to a question that has no answer. But I wanted to be a doctor because I thought that would be the best way to assist them. Recently, in the tumultuous world we are living in now, I have seen that doctors are vital. But I have seen that those responsible for enacting legislation that determines the quality, and potentially the length of, many people’s lives are not looking to people who live with illness every day of their lives. People who cannot afford to stop working from illness. People who cannot pay for a $300 visit once a month because if they do, they cannot go to school or feed their children.

Health is sporadic. Health is vital. Health is precious. The moment it’s gone is the moment you see how necessary it truly is. It pains me to hear people claim health as something that should be earned. My only thought is that those people have never struggled to get out of bed in the morning. Have never had to be an adult asking someone for help getting their pants on. Have never had to spend $40 on pain relief patches just to make it through an exam. Have never broken down at a loved one because you just cannot take the pain anymore, with strangers watching from the distance wondering what has you so upset. Have never had to decide whether or not to tell your family just how much pain you’re in because you don’t want them to worry even more.

Health can aid one’s life or destroy it. To the people who live with chronic illnesses, I admire you. I know how hard it is every day you wake up, get ready for your day and face the world who does not understand you. The world that doubts your pain. I pride myself in knowing that my achievements get to be classified with someone who has a chronic illness because those who have a chronic illness are truly strong. It is our duty to spread the word, alert the world to our struggles, show them that our illness is invisible but we are not. We will be here and we will be fighting. Every second of every minute of every day, we fight.

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Thinkstock photo via berdsigns.

Originally published: June 13, 2017
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