The Mighty Logo

Nice to Meet You, I'm Sick

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

For the past three years I have tried to keep the mentality that I am not defined by pulmonary hypertension. I try to avoid referring to myself as a “patient,” and avoid using phrases like “my disease.” I happen to have a disease, but I don’t want to limit myself as being defined by it.

Do I have ownership over it? I am not sure.

I didn’t go shopping one day and decided that pulmonary hypertension would go great with my black bow Ted Baker sweater. I didn’t go to a pet store and decide to adopt pulmonary hypertension as a companion. I didn’t go to university to study how to become sick, hoping that an illness would strike me with the bullshit lottery lightening bolt.

I really wanted more for myself, more for my future, and more out life. Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t get a say in what happens. Perhaps the only control we have is how we handle these obstacles, but sometimes that feels out of my reach as well.

It can be hard introducing myself to new people. Often times people will ask what I do for a living, and its a long story to explain. Booking appointments somewhere new, from a hotel stay to a salon can cause the same problem. I don’t want to lead with “I have pulmonary hypertension,” but it always seems to happen.

I have to ask if establishments are accessible. I have to make sure they know that I cannot be around sick people. Sometimes I have to ask if someone else who isn’t sick can help me, which may make others think I am rude. There are so many things in my life I have to navigate around that sometimes I can’t worry what other people might think of me.

“Could I have my meal prepared with no salt? I have a heart condition.”

I have just met a waiter at a restaurant and they already know one of the monumental parts of my life story. I am sick and I can’t have salt.

I am not the same person that I was before diagnosis, but I still don’t want to be defined by an illness. I think it caused a ripple effect, like a stone being thrown into a pond. Do we think a pond is different just because a stone has been thrown in? No, but I guess we start to think differently of the pond when it starts to dry out- which is what living with a life threatening illness feels like.

So what makes me who I am?

Well, I didn’t decide to get sick, but I did decide to start writing after my diagnosis. I went to university for art, but traded my paint brushes for words. I have always been a creative person, but now my outlet feels a little different.

Although my life is heavily dictated by navigating through life with pulmonary hypertension, I still try to make it a life worth living. It isn’t always easy, but what other choice do I have? Like I said, I didn’t decide on having pulmonary hypertension in the same way I got to decide what cup of tea I would have tonight.

Maybe what we decide to do with what we are in control of makes us who we are.

To anyone who is just meeting me, please give me a chance. I might have to ask some weird questions to ensure my own safety, but I promise there is a person beyond a seemingly scary diagnosis and a handful of strange questions.

Nice to meet you. I am Serena and I am sick, but I also want to talk about Sleazy Nick from “The Bachelor.” I want to talk about how Riverdale is the perfect mix between “Gossip Girl” and “Twin Peaks” I never knew I needed, and how cute my Boston terrier is. I like makeup, and idolize my girl Oprah. A day without a cup of tea is like a day without sunshine, and I put my bra on one boob a time – just like everyone else.

Behind all my precautions is a pretty normal girl, I just happen to have pulmonary hypertension.

Thinkstock image provided by: DragonImages

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Originally published: February 21, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home