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How Chronic Illness Is Like a Fire

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I am going to spend the next few minutes telling you about what life is like when you are living with a chronic illness. I am going to specifically speak about endometriosis, but I think this can be applied across the board to many chronic illnesses.

Close your eyes. Imagine the most important person in your life, and your very best memory with them. Are you smiling? Do you have butterflies in your stomach? Are you at the beach with your toes in the sand listening to the waves crash in the background, or hiking in the mountains looking at the beautiful scenery as the sun sets? Maybe you are at home watching your significant other and children playing in the backyard, laughing hysterically as they cuddle their brand new puppy? Is there a sparkle in your eye as you reminisce about this one particular memory – this one moment of time?

Keep this vision; pull this person and thought into your mind’s view with everything you have.

Eyes still closed. That special person is physically now standing next to you. That memory you are thinking of that gives you the giggles and is one of the highlights of your life – think of it as a reel of film. Now, set it on fire. The fire will start out small, singeing the very beginning of the reel. But watch closely as it spreads wider and deeper to the edges, and the fire grows fiercer and more violent with each passing second. The room is filling with smoke. It is becoming harder and harder to breathe. You try to stop the spreading to protect that memory and all the meaning it holds. But you can’t – the fire is impenetrable, and there is no escape.


The fire has become too large, too fast. The reel of film is disintegrating in front of your very eyes. That memory that was so special is dying from the fire’s suffocating toxins. It is deteriorating along with the film. The fire has almost consumed the entire reel. It is getting closer to your fingers, but you still won’t let go; you hang on by your pinky longing for that one last touch, yet the fire sneaks in, beginning to graze your fingertips. Red and orange colors flicker as ashes of your memory fall to the ground. You have to make a decision: risk everything to save that last remaining inch of your memory before it is lost forever, or risk yourself and the person standing beside you?

Here is the caveat: endometriosis does not allow for either of these outcomes. The ending was never really in our hands to begin with. We just walked the path that had already been paved for us. There was no place to u-turn, and nowhere to take another route. It was a permanent detour that left you stuck in the desert. I have had to watch my old life be captured, burned, turned to ashes and swept out the door, like it was nothing. Then, there is my physical body; it survived, but the person that once occupied it no longer lives. Both that memory and I were lost that day in the fire out in the desert. We reached our final destination.

Chronic illness is like fire. It blazes a trail right through your life and does not stop. The fire takes over your failing insides. The pain seers your skin and organs as the fire rips through every part of your being. Your body contains it, but cannot put it out. Your body now only acts as an accelerate. Any type of prevention only further empowers the blaze. You are now the prized winner of keeping the flame going, and your life is the consequence. The inferno allows you to breathe, but it does not allow you to truly live.

That, ladies and gentleman, is only one small part of what it can be like to live with a chronic illness.

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Thinkstock photo via iplan/a.collectionRF.

Originally published: June 14, 2017
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