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My Letter of Gratitude to Those Who Support Me on My Journey With Chronic Illness

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In America, November is the month of Thanksgiving in which we celebrate the blessings in our lives and journeys. Most of the time the blessings we celebrate and the things for which we are most thankful are particular people who have made a difference to us. So, to those people in my life and on my journey, here is my note of thanksgiving to each one of you!

To my parents,

I haven’t ever been the epitome of health, but you never made me feel any different than any other child. There are certain things parents should never have to endure, and watching your child physically struggle is one of them. But you did it and you continue to do it. And to all the parents who do it (including mine), thank you for being a rock to your children. We know there is a level of fear in the back of your mind (we see it) but you let us live each moment of our lives while gritting your teeth. Your confidence in us makes our journey less fearful because you have perfected carrying the fear and stress for your chronically ill child. Because of your help in carrying that weight, the burden is dramatically decreased for your chronic illness warrior child. So please know that all those moments spent at the library (and online) reading about your child’s illness, the moments you fought insurance for tests and treatments, the moments you wiped tears of pain away, the time you spent cooking special meals, the hours spent in doctors’ offices and hospitals and stepping in when your grown child needs you… all of these loving actions have not gone unnoticed! We would not be where we are today without the advocacy you gave us.

To my spouse,

You stepped in on my journey and learned all you could about how to care for me that day we said, “I do.” I knew you were a good guy then but here we are almost 13 years later and you prove to me every day that you take your “in sickness” vow seriously. To the spouses of chronic illness warriors, you are noticed and applauded. We know the sacrifice you make daily for us. On the days we need to rest, you allow us that opportunity and it is appreciated far beyond words. We know you sometimes give up weekends for us. To those of you (including mine) who sit with your chronically ill spouse as they attend doctor appointments, get blood work, get tests, go for infusions, inject themselves with what you both hope will be the miracle… your time is more than we could have ever expected the day you married us. To my husband, you truly make me feel like a team when you say, “Rheumatoid arthritis may be in your body, but we have RA.”

To my medical team,

It is only fitting that you follow closely behind my parents and spouse on my “thank you” list. I certainly would not be a functioning member of society without you. To Dr. Rheumatologist, you weren’t the first doctor I encountered on my journey, but you stepped in and took an emotionally broken patient and convinced her to try new treatments. I commend you for taking on a patient that had lost trust in the medical system and asked her to trust you. It took a few years but today when I say, “I trust you,” I really do! To the office staff who figures the insurance stuff out, alerts doctors that appeals are needed, to the scheduler who knows I work appointments around my work life and schedule, you all are the reason I can continue to function and work with an illness. Thank you!

To my friends,

There is one thing that is common amongst you all whether you knew me before my RA diagnosis or after: each of you allows me a life beyond my chronic illness. Thank you for your understanding when I say I can’t make it to meet you or when you let me decide on the restaurant. You know why I can’t always hang out, but you are courteous in not mentioning it unless I want to talk about it. The truth is you all are a part of my mental health. You are the friends who allow me to borrow movies when you see me beginning to unravel, you help me online shop to distract me from my real issues and you make me laugh so much that I forget real life for the moments we are together. Your encouragement is both spoken and unspoken and I receive both gladly. And to that one friend who took a moment to listen to my real fears on “that” particular day, the day I was defeated, you actively stepped in and changed my path forever. Your kindness will never be forgotten. To those of you who are friends of a chronic illness warrior… you are the “happy pill” of their life, I can guarantee it.

And last but not least, this is a personal one but I am certain I am not the only warrior who has gratitude for this group of people.

To baristas (particular Starbucks baristas),

Thank you for always smiling and making me feel special by remembering my name and drink order. We joke that I am an afternoon coffee drinker as I show up at 3 p.m. to get my usual cup of joe. But at that moment in my day, I won’t make it through the rest of my workday without the pick-me-up you provide (both in the cup and with your encouragement). You cheer me up as you tell me about your day and you help me as I struggle to tell your new employees my name or my drink order. Most of you don’t even know I am chronically ill. To those special baristas who went through infusion treatment with me and a medical leave from my career…thank you for allowing me a safe place to be “regular.” As I have showed up with hospital bracelets (that I couldn’t get off in the car before I came in) and face masks after infusions, you didn’t bat an eye and even have cheered me on when you find out my secret. You don’t know it, but your chronically ill customers more than appreciate every little thing you do!

Fellow warriors, as you celebrate this month of Thanksgiving, who is on your list? Who would your letters of Thanksgiving be addressed to? Let’s make certain that this holiday season, we remember all those who help us in our journey and pause to say a quick “Thanks.” Now, pass me a slice of that pumpkin pie!

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Thinkstock photo via Paffy69.

Originally published: November 13, 2017
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