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Please Don't Say I'm the 'Lucky One' Because My Symptoms Are Mild

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“The lucky one:” a term that people have used for me once finding out the severity of my symptoms compared to others who have it worse off with my same conditions.

I can’t count, or even begin to count, how many times I’ve been called “the lucky one” due to my symptoms of cystic fibrosis (CF) and gastroparesis being less severe than others who have CF and/or gastroparesis. Most of the time, it has come from peers and strangers who ask me questions about my health and symptoms.

Also, due to the glamorization and stereotypes of chronic illnesses/disabilities in the entertainment industry, some people have heard of CF. CF is a genetic disease I was born with that affects the mucus production in my body. This leads to complications in all organs, but mainly the lungs, pancreas, GI tract and reproductive system. When most people think of CF, they think of someone carrying around oxygen wherever they go, coughing constantly and probably needing new lungs. I don’t blame people for thinking of CF like this, since most of the news stories and CF portrayals in shows have been people on oxygen, coughing and needing a lung transplant.

And yes, there are plenty of individuals who have CF who fit the media standards of how they portray this genetic illness. But, there are also individuals like me: with very mild cases. Even with my gastroparesis, which is a chronic condition where the GI tract is paralyzed, my symptoms are very mild compared to others. I’ve never needed oxygen, and I’m probably never going to need to rely on it. I’m not severely underweight. I’m not coughing constantly. I don’t need new lungs and I don’t have or need a feeding tube.

But this doesn’t mean my symptoms and feelings are “less real” because I’m not experiencing life-threatening symptoms. I have plenty of friends I have met online throughout the years who also have very mild cases of CF. One thing we have all agreed on is that we’re tired of trying to prove ourselves or our symptoms to the world because we don’t “look sick” or are considered “the lucky ones” because we don’t need new lungs. We’re tired of being called “the lucky one” because quite frankly, it’s bad luck on the side of genetics to have an illness that does affect almost every aspect of our lives, although it’s not as severe of an impact compared to those with oxygen and such.

Comparison needs to end. I’ve left many support groups and social media pages because they were a competition for who is the sickest person. And not all support groups are like that, but a majority of groups and individuals feed into the idea of comparison. I’ve been taught at a young age by my parents to not compare myself to others, illness or not. And for a while, I felt bad complaining or even feeling bad for myself for a quick second because I don’t have it as bad as others. But this mindset completely invalidates all symptoms and experiences you have, which is not a healthy way to think.

In the end: validity is important, whether or not you have illnesses. It’s important to not compare yourself to others, and it’s important to not compare others for any reason whatsoever.

Every time I was called “the lucky one,” I was unconsciously compared to someone who does have it worse, which invalidated my own symptoms and life struggle of having CF. It’s not a competition about who is sicker, or about proving yourself and symptoms because people don’t believe you: it’s about accepting yourself for who you are, sick or not.

Originally published: June 29, 2016
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