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7 Suggestions for How to Treat Those With Chronic Illness

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Having chronic medical conditions and being a model has been a delight to get awareness out and just live my life like any other person would.

As I’ve gone through this since I was 13, I do have a memory of being so-called “normal” and the biggest struggle for many who are sick is how some may treat you like you’re “different” when you don’t want special privileges or to be treated like you aren’t normal, because you may eat another way or breathe another way.

woman modeling in a white outfit
Photo – Sullivan Blue Photographer; Hair – Kelly Raby Lyerly; Makeup – Mellie White

So for those who want to know how to look at me or talk to me, then I’m going to just get this out there.

1. Please don’t say if you could, you would take my illness on yourself. I would never wish this upon anyone else – especially someone I’m friends with. It’s hard enough knowing so many others out in the world have gone through the same issue; I believe God made us all the way we are and as I’ve grown I’ve come to accept the fact I am unable to eat and need formula to survive. I believe it’s the way God intended things to be. I accept that and don’t want either of us dwelling on my disease.

2. I don’t want pity, or for you to feel sorry for something out of everyone’s control; I do what I do so I’m living and able to inspire and help others. My story and career choice isn’t about having people tell me how sorry they are for me. Things happened, and I’ve found myself and what I love to do, and in the process I’m inspiring so many and meeting amazing friends.

3. I know you have good intentions when you say sorry before taking a bite of that food, or maybe even avoid eating in front of me because I’m unable to do the same. What I want is to see you enjoy your food, tell me how delicious it is, talk to me like you are out at lunch with a friend because no matter what we are eating at the same time, I’m just fed by a feeding-pump. Eating is how we all survive, I want you to eat even in front of me so you can have lots more energy!

4. Don’t say I’m good at something just because I have a medical problem; if you have advice as to where I can improve, tell me! Even though I need more rest than some people I am always looking for ways to improve! Sure, I have to push a bit harder than most do… but it is always worth it.

5. If you have a question about what caused me to need a feeding tube, or even what my feeding tube is for those who don’t know what one looks like, just ask! I remember when I had the NJ-tube in my nose, I was mainly upset that people would stare at it rather than coming up and asking what it was and why I had it (rarely did people ask).

6. Don’t just ask about my health or always make conversation about exclusively my illness. I’m more than happy talking about it but also I am a person beyond it, and I want to get to know you and allow you to get to know me as I am.

7. Just talk with and treat me like any of your other friends and joke with me; you’ll find I’m quite a goofy person and often crack jokes about the fact I can’t eat. [Example: Who ate the ____? I did it!] Just get to know me and become my friend.

Thanks to everyone for the support. I believe strongly that anyone and everyone with some sort of life circumstance causing them the inability to do something that there is something out there for you that you can do. Follow your dreams and live!

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Originally published: October 22, 2017
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