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Dear Chronic Illness, I Don't Know Whether to Love or Hate You

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Dear Chronic Illness,

I don’t know whether to love you or hate you. To be bitter for all I’ve lost and what you have cost me, or be grateful for the lessons you’ve taught me and the perspective you have brought into my life. To despise the loss of independence I’ve experienced because of you, or to appreciate the grace and humility you have forced me to learn.

It never crossed my mind that the innocent childhood pictures of butterflies in my mind’s eye would be replaced with the butterfly needles used by doctors to take my blood. That the gentle tickle of the insect landing on my arm would be replaced by the sharp sting of a needle puncturing my flesh. I wanted to grow up and find the cure for cancer, not the good vein in my arm for the phlebotomist to draw labs from.

You barged into my life like an unwanted guest, shattered my hopes and dreams, and poured gasoline into the pieces you had broken, watching the flames engulf it until only ashes were left. And yet, I am learning to be grateful for your cleansing fire.

You have opened me up to new experiences and new problems I never knew existed. You taught me what it’s like to use a wheelchair, a very eye-opening experience. I never realized how many disability bathrooms were not truly accessible. I never thought about how someone was supposed to grab hold of the door handle, hold the door open, and wheel themselves through. I never imagined that many of these supposedly accessible stalls were not large enough to accommodate a wheelchair.

Through you, I have discovered the people who will cling to me during struggles and the people who will leave me to run to shelter when the storms of my life get difficult to weather. The people who instead of fleeing from my darkness, will stand with me and shine a light so I may have the courage to face the shadows of uncertainty.

You have shown me how the most brilliant people can project the most ignorance into the world, and that a medical degree does not equal intelligence.

I am learning how God can take the most broken, vulnerable parts of my circumstances and use them in ways I could never have imagined.

Some days I can still feel the heat from your fire engulfing me, and I struggle to breathe as panic courses through my body at the thought of you destroying what I have started to rebuild. But on those days, I remember you are not destroying my life, only changing it into something different based on God’s plan. And no matter what shape my life takes, I believe with God’s grace, I will rise from the ashes of your fire.

Getty image by Belitas.

Originally published: January 6, 2020
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