Elyse Sutherland

@elyse-sutherland | contributor
Elyse has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, dysautonomia, severe gastroparesis and is a cancer survivor. The cancer caused an abundance of other health problems, but luckily she has been in remission for four years now. Despite all of this, she is still a full-time student pursuing a degree in speech-language pathology, while also working part-time with kiddos at a daycare facility.

Facing My Fears With Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

In our winter class, we have been talking about fear. This has led me to self-reflect and be truly honest about what I fear. I did recently write about fearing not truly living; while that is still my most prominent fear, if I’m being truly honest with myself there are a few more and I’m ready to be vulnerable and expose them. I fear being alone. Having an invisible illness, or any disability can be a truly isolating experience. I realized that fully when I was alone in the ER this weekend. Sure, people were texting me, some people didn’t know, and my friend who was working in the hospital came and checked on me. But I was still alone on that gurney and I was scared. I was terrified they were going to have to do a scary procedure (luckily, they didn’t have to) and that I would be alone. Other people in the waiting room were pitying me; one woman blatantly said how sad it was that I was alone. I hate that I was alone there. I hate that I am alone in my apartment on weekends. I hate that I am single. I want to find love and friendship and I’m terrified that my disability will prevent that. Sure, I put on a brave face. Since I don’t want to be an inconvenience to anyone, if you ask me if you need to come while I’m in the hospital, I’ll probably tell you no. But if I’m being completely honest, I don’t mean it at all. I don’t want to be alone, it terrifies me. I fear not being accepted. I try so hard to be “normal.” I don’t want to be different, because society has a history of dismissing and belittling those with disabilities and disorders. I hate the looks I get when I wear a new brace, so I usually don’t do it. I am overly sensitive and self-conscious in public. I try to hide my disability as much as possible. I know it’s not healthy, but I’m still not at the level of self-acceptance where I can present myself to the world in my true form, fully confident. I’m working on getting there, but I’m not there yet. I fear being defined by my disability. I talk about my disability sometimes. I’m really working on talking about other things too. It’s hard when this is such a big part of my life, though. I am aware that I do it and that perhaps because I do it, people often define me by my disability. I like to think I’m smart, funny and kind. I want to be defined by those things. I want to talk about those things. I want to build friendships from those things. But I also have a job — to advocate for this invisible disability. I want people to learn about it, so that the world is more aware and accepting. It’s a fine line to walk of advocacy, but not being defined by the disorder and I’m working on learning the boundaries. I don’t think these fears are unique to me. I don’t think they are unique to people with disabilities either. I’m just being honest about them. I need to face these fears too. I need to learn to not be afraid of being alone; I need to learn to not be afraid of being accepted; I need to learn to not be afraid of being defined by something. Only I can choose to be affected by these fears. Hopefully, this article is the first step in facing them and moving past them.

The Aspects of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome I Hide Every Day

The thing that is frustrating about invisible illnesses is just that – they are invisible. As of right now, I don’t use a wheelchair or crutches and you cannot see the integrity of my heart. The braces I’m wearing are easy to hide underneath clothing. Now sometimes, after an acute injury, I cannot hide or pretend I’m normal because I’m in a cast or something visible. It’s a blessing, because I can hide my illness, and a curse, because people tend not to believe what they cannot see. On a daily basis, I’m hiding these things from my classmates and those around me: 1. Pain I’m always in an incredible amount of pain. I don’t even put a number on it anymore. My joints are so bad they are talking about replacing my joints at age 26. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is a chronic pain condition. My pain isn’t going anywhere and nothing makes it go away completely. When I tell you something hurts, please believe me because my pain tolerance is high. If I’m telling you it hurts, it’s probably pretty bad. 2. Fatigue I’m always tired, whether I sleep three hours or 16 hours. My condition wears me out. Sometimes I can’t sleep because it hurts too bad. Sometimes I sleep just fine, but it wasn’t quality sleep, so I wake up just as tired. The only time I’ve woken up truly rested is after anesthesia. I don’t think that is safe to do every night though. If you want to do something after 7 p.m., I need to save all my energy to be able to do that. My body also requires more energy to do the simplest tasks. Sometimes I have to weigh what is more important – showering or doing my homework – because I don’t have enough energy to do both. 3. Loneliness Being ill is incredibly isolating. I can’t do things other people my age are doing, and a lot of times because they don’t see my illness they don’t understand why. I can’t drink alcohol because my stomach sucks and I’m missing part of a kidney. I’d love nothing more to toss some back after a tough day, but I can’t, so I usually end up by myself. I’m getting really good at being alone, but I hate that it has to be that way. 4. Stigma Most people don’t think this is a problem because my illness is invisible. I believe that is even more stigmatizing though. If I show up in a brace one day but look fine the next, I get accused of “faking it” or “attention-seeking,” when in reality I probably just did something silly to pop that joint out that day and needed to compress it for a while. The amount of judgment I get is phenomenal and it’s really nobody’s business but me and my doctor’s. 5. Anxiety There is always a cloud of worry around you when you are sick. I constantly have to be evaluating my body and deciding what is normal for me and what is weird and possibly an emergency. I will tell you I’m alright most of the time, but chances are I’m not as I appear. Appearances can be deceiving. I’m well aware I am far from normal. I’m really good at hiding all of these things in an effort to be normal. I wish I was comfortable being more open about it, but in today’s society when anything can make you feel “less than” or small, I tend to err on the side of hiding. If the world was a more accepting place of people’s differences and was willing to learn from them instead of judging them, maybe I’d be OK with visibly wearing all three braces I’m supposed to and occasionally using the disability tag I have. I’m probably doing more damage to my body by caring more about hiding than by doing what I’m supposed to be doing. Right now though, I’m not sure I’m ready to bare it all for the world to see. I like to think I’m a courageous person – heck, I’m writing this article – but only because I’m certain I’m not the only one with an invisible illness who feels the need to hide. Maybe if we band together and support each other we can help each other come out of hiding. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here. Thinkstock photo via Koldunov.

I’m Not Afraid of Dying of My Illness. I’m Afraid of Not Living.

On Sunday, it will be exactly five years and eight months after we found out I had cancer. Two months after they did surgery and more surgery, they declared my cancer in remission. On Sunday, after five years of no reoccurrence, I will be declared cured. Unless I develop another type of cancer in the next week, I’m reaching a huge milestone. Ever since learning I had cancer — and now knowing I have a type of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome that can cause death — I decided to live my life a little differently. When I told people I had cancer, many asked if I was scared. The same question comes up when they find out I don’t have the less dangerous form of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I’m not afraid of dying. Yes, it used to terrify me, but I’m at a point in my journey where it doesn’t anymore. Every single time I have a splitting headache or chest pain yes, one of the first thoughts I have is, “Whelp, here’s the fatal aneurysm.” That thought is usually fleeting, and if there is a real concern I go to the ER. As of yet it hasn’t been an aneurysm or my cancer coming back. I had to shift my thinking into accepting I could go at any minute. Random violence is so much more prevalent, so no one is ever really safe. I might just be aware of my own mortality than your average 26-year-old. I don’t think many of my friends have living wills and advanced directives. I no longer fear death. Yeah it would suck to die in the prime of life, but I’m not afraid. I’m terrified of not living though. I’m not talking about dying. I’m talking about not putting myself out there, not trying new things and not making myself uncomfortable. I want to make the most of every single day. I want to make a difference in the lives of those around me. I want to experience all life has to offer. If I sit in my bed (because I can’t get hurt) it’s safe, and I feel sorry for myself, then I’m not really living. I want to meet new people and continue to learn. I learned in order to truly live, you have to be willing to throw yourself into what you are doing 100 percent, even if it’s uncomfortable. Being a passive observer while life passes me by is more terrifying than having my cancer come back or dying from an aneurysm. This week is huge — I’m cancer free. I officially survived! Every day I wake up I also celebrate the fact I have another day to live, and I soak up every minute of it. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo by Credit: RossHelen

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome: Asking 'Why Not Me?' Instead of 'Why Me?'

Ever had that kind of week where everything that could go wrong did? Not only did I sprain my ankle for the third time this summer, but things at work got “interesting” and I had some personal drama. Hit after hit just kept coming. I kept wondering, why, on top of dealing with my chronic illness, was everything else going down the drain? Essentially feeling sorry for myself and asking “why me” to the universe.   I know I’m not the only chronically ill person who gets stuck in this mindset. It happens – we are humans, who deal with more than our fair share of difficulties, most invisible to typical people. People don’t peg me as someone who is struggling on most days, because I can be really good at putting on a front. I was ready to throw it in though as my own self was getting in the way of my mental well-being. But I had a moment during that rough week where my mindset shifted. I was about to pull out of an event, afraid of failing because of the week I had been having. Someone asked me during that time if the “why me” attitude was productive. After some contemplation, I realized it wasn’t. My illness has robbed me of a lot, but it shouldn’t rob me of my self-worth too. I am not defined by my illness. I shifted my focus to the event. It was a big risk for someone with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome – my trainer and father had convinced me to swim in the ocean for a race. Why couldn’t I swim in the race and do well? Yes, dislocations were a risk, but I had trained really hard to be careful to avoid them in my swimming. Why not me be the one to swim in the ocean for the first time and do well? (I did really well.) I have a huge interview coming up – why not me to be the one to get the job? Why not me to be one of the first persons with a connective tissue disorder to compete in open water swims? (I’m looking at swimming across Chesapeake Bay next season.) Why not me to be as successful as my classmates in graduate school this fall? Just because I have this illness doesn’t mean I have to limit my expectations of myself. Physically, some things may never be possible for me, but I’m done yearning for what I can’t do and can’t have. No more of “why me” and much more of being empowered by thinking, “Why not me?” We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here. Thinkstock photo via microgen.

To My Brother on the Autism Spectrum as I Move Away From Home

Life has never seemed easy for you. Our parents knew there was something different when you were 3 years old and not hearing. I was 6 at the time and didn’t understand autism like I do now. I thank you for helping me understand. I remember how sad Mom was when they told her you might never talk, but you did. I remember how frustrated Dad got because you didn’t make many friends, but now you are happy. I remember how mean some of the kids were to you, and the first time someone called you the “r” word. At the time, you didn’t understand it was wrong. Now, when people call you that, you get upset but you tell them why it’s wrong. I remember as a kid not quite understanding you were different, but loving you none the less. Sometimes you can be hard to understand, but not any more than our other siblings. I remember your high school graduation and Mom’s tears of joy because people told her you would never graduate high school. I remember when I got sick. You kept asking why I wasn’t getting better. Now you know I never will, but you show empathy and unconditional love for me. I will never forget that time a couple months ago when you were walking home from work in the cold, but you called me to ask if I wanted you to pick up a sandwich for me on the way home. Finally, I remember telling you I was moving away. I still don’t know if you fully understand I’m not coming back for more than a week at a time. You and I hugged for what felt like an eternity and in that moment I realized what a remarkable young man you have become. You have proved so many people wrong. I hope life gets easier for you, but sometimes being an adult means rising up to face more challenges. I have no doubt you will.  And no matter how far away I am, I will always be one of your biggest supporters and cheerleaders. Editor’s note: This story has been published with permission from the author’s brother. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo by: DashaR

Tips for Fighting Ignorance About Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

We have all experienced ignorance about our illnesses at some point. Everyone has their story of being told they didn’t look sick or disabled enough for something. Now more than ever, we have to be willing to stand up for ourselves and advocate for our diseases. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that most doctors can’t even spell Ehlers-Danlos syndrome correctly. Nothing will change, though, unless we are willing to use our situations as conduits for that change. Here are some things I have learned about fighting ignorance along with my disease: 1. Just because people don’t understand doesn’t mean they don’t want to. Some people ask me inappropriate questions, such as “If you are so sick, why are you working?” I don’t think they are saying it out of malice, although I used to. I think the best thing to do in this situation is to try and help the person understand that your illness doesn’t necessarily have to limit everything you do. I have found that people asking these types of questions are usually just trying to understand. Use the opportunity to open up a conversation, instead of going on the defensive. 2. I was recently in the airport and had a wheelchair and was reported to the gate agent by another passenger because I left my chair to use the restroom just across the hallway. I was in a boot cast and this lady thought it was inappropriate that I got a wheelchair if I could clearly walk. The gate agent was very kind about it and told me I was allowed to do what I wanted, but the chair would still be there if I needed it. The lady was furious and started yelling at me, telling me that there were other people that needed the chair more than I did. I calmly told her that I had the chair not only for my foot but for my heart. She quietly walked away while muttering under her breath about me. I was not going to change this woman’s mind about me and picking a fight in the middle of an airport would have been more taxing for my body. I have found that being calm in these situations are usually better than getting all fired up. Also, her behavior made her look bad and by rising above I preserved my self-dignity. 3. Knowledge is the best tool in fighting ignorance. When a doctor asks me what Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is, I kindly give them the information about it from the Ehlers-Danlos Society page (it’s a nice little pamphlet). I also explain what it means for my treatment and my body. The more we educate, the more people are going to know. Now, the only people who are truly going to get what we are going through are people in similar situations. But we can try and make the learning curve a little less steep by promoting awareness and education about these rarer conditions. 4. Finally, if you get angry because someone said something ignorant or offensive to you, let it fuel you in a positive way. Let the fire of advocacy burn, use the rage to blog, write articles, and share what made it ignorant and offensive about it with them (if you can). We cannot fight fire with more fire in these situations. It doesn’t do anyone any good and is usually rougher on our bodies and psyches than the offenders. We need to fight the fire of ignorance with education and advocacy. Meryl Streep did an excellent job for all of us with disabilities at the Golden Globe Awards. She called out the ignorance, brought it out into the light, but also educated on why it was so wrong. Let’s use her as an example and fire ourselves up to fight ignorance as well as our illnesses. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

How to Deal With Feeling Sorry for Yourself for Being Sick

Being chronically ill can really take a toll emotionally some days. I can no longer do a lot of the things I used to go out and enjoy doing. Many people don’t understand what I’m going through. Sometimes this creates a very lonely existence where all I want to do is crawl into a hole and feel sorry for myself. These are my “bad days,” if you will. I can’t get rid of my illness, but I can get rid of the self-pity attitude. Here are some ways that I do that: 1. If it’s a particularly bad day, I take a break from social media. If I’m already feeling sorry for myself, then seeing pictures of my friends out living their lives only makes me feel inferior. I shut it down until I feel better and reason with myself that I’m glad my friends are doing well and can be out living their lives, in a different way than I’m living mine. It doesn’t mean I’m inferior in any way, I just have a different set of life circumstances that affect what I can and cannot do. 2. Sometimes I need to grieve. I’m not grieving the loss of a particular person. I’m grieving the loss of who I could have been if I wasn’t sick. I imagine this person in my mind — she’s pretty awesome, but I can never be her. Thus, I mourn her. A good old cry releases this grief a little bit. I’m not ashamed that it happens sometimes. Even though I am dealing with an incurable chronic illness, when I’m done crying, I realize my actual self is pretty awesome, too, and deals with some pretty hard things every day. 3. Like in “Grey’s Anatomy,” I have a person. This person understands that when I’m having a bad day I don’t want to hear about how it could be worse. This person just listens and tells me it’s going to be OK, which if I’m not currently dying, it will be. I suggest finding this person for yourself, whether it is a friend or a family member. They don’t have to understand what you are going through they just have to listen and validate your feelings. Find your Christina Yang to your Meredith Grey. 4. On bad days I tend to focus on my mortality a bit, too. It stinks, but most 20-something-year-olds don’t have to come to the reality that they are not immortal. With vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome I could literally drop at any point if my brain or heart decides to blow. I have a living will and advanced directive at 25 (not that I have many assets to give away). When I start thinking this way I try to focus on living. I throw myself into my school work or into my volunteer work. We are all on a clock, most people just don’t have to face theirs every time they have chest pain or a headache. I’m not dead yet and until I am I have to live the best life that I can. 5. Lastly, laughter really is the best medicine. When I am having a bad day finding something to laugh at is extremely helpful. For me this means watching anything with Chris Pratt in it — the man is a comedic genius (in my opinion). Also anything on YouTube that the cast of “Supernatural” has put out, especially the convention talks which are pretty funny. Find what makes you laugh and have it ready to go in your bookmarks or Netflix queue. Find the videos before you have a bad day, so they are ready to go when you need them. There is a clip of the “Supernatural” cast that never fails to put a smile on my face and it’s ready to go on my phone and computer, in case I need a little pick-me-up. What most people don’t realize is that being chronically ill is very hard. We deal with hardships that hopefully a normal person will never have to experience in their lifetime. I think that it makes us stronger and more resilient people. It doesn’t mean for a second that being sick doesn’t take an emotional toll as well as a physical. The emotional toll is just harder for other people to see and pick up on. Hopefully, we can work together to help each other through the bad days. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Being Thankful for Dysautonomia and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

As many of you know, October is Dysautonomia Awareness Month. Because of my Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, I also struggle with dysautonomia. The two conditions are correlated, and though there are several theories about why that is, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that my heart likes to go to the races, with little to no warning for me. If the chest pain is too bad I have to go to the hospital, in case it’s not my dysautonomia but instead pain in my aorta due to Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. It is incredibly hard to live with two conditions that people can’t see unless I’m in a brace or a cast or have fainted on the ground. I would give anything for a day without being sick, but that is not the hand I was dealt to play. I believe in making the best out of things though, so there are several things I am thankful to these conditions for giving me. Because both conditions are categorized as invisible illnesses, people usually don’t know I’m sick until I’m in trouble. This can be a good thing as I can sometimes blend in among “normal” people. I have also had to become my own self-advocate. Only I know when my heart is going haywire or when I’m over-heated or when my brain fog is bad. I used to hate asking for help, but now I know I have to sometimes. I have to ask a classmate for help if I need something repeated. I also have to ask strangers for help if I’m alone in public having a problem. Most people are willing to help, if they actually know what is going on and what you need from them. Most doctors cannot spell either condition, so I am always taken by surprised when they know what each condition is. Unfortunately, I’ve done a tour of about every local hospital and one international one. I am always pleasantly surprised when a physician knows about either condition. It also means sometimes I have to fight for what I need. I need to be an advocate for my own health when a physician doesn’t know how to treat me. Usually, one or two bags of saline do the trick, but they need to know that from me. When I tell people what I have there are a couple of responses. The usual one is, “What the heck is that? I’ve never heard of it before.” The worst response was someone telling me dysautonomia wasn’t even a real word, let alone a condition. I asked them how many medical terms aren’t recognized as words in the dictionary (it is quite a few, by the way). I have to educate people about my conditions, so hopefully they aren’t as ignorant in the future. Most people think the party tricks associated with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome are cool. The only party trick of dysautonomia — letting people watch my heart rate climb 40 bpm or more when I stand — tends to make me faint, so I avoid it. I carry around both the Dysautonomia International and Ehlers-Danlos National Foundation pamphlets to give out to curious people. I’m not afraid to share about my conditions because there is no better advocate than someone who is experiencing it every day. I have also developed an awesome sense of humor about what I go through. If I wasn’t laughing about my situation, I would be throwing myself a pity party. My dating life is non-existent; the most action I get is when a male certified nursing assistant does my EKG. Sometimes the doctors don’t actually think I’m in that much pain because I’m cracking jokes (and there are many to make with each condition). I try to find the humor in the situation no matter what. Just before my last surgery I wore a superhero onesie (I’m 6’3″) and had every nurse in pro-op laughing with me. Only the doctor made me change. When I became sick, I thought there were things I would be incapable of doing, but I am a much stronger person because of these conditions. I endure daily subluxations without blinking. Once someone asked me if my knee was supposed to look like that, as it was dislocated slightly off to the side. I just popped it back in and thanked them for letting me know it was out. Their jaw was on the floor but I just walked away because it’s my normal. I also underwent a procedure where the local anesthetic didn’t work and I felt every single move and incision the doctors made. They didn’t sedate me at all. I cried, but I pulled through. I’ve become a pro at swallowing massive nasogastric tubes and can look at a needle without passing out (I used to faint at needles as a kiddo). I have endured so much, but I don’t let it get me down. Finally, I have become a true fighter. I fight for proper medical treatment. I fight to reach my goals and aspirations. I fight to hold down a job. Every day is a battle between what my body is capable of and what my mind wants me to do. I fight for balance between these two forces to live the most phenomenal and fantastic life possible. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Response to Those Who Ask Why I Bother Trying Even Though I'm Sick

As someone who is chronically ill with a multitude of illnesses, I get asked sometimes why I even bother trying. To give you some context, between doctors’ appointments, infusions, surgeries, and hospital stays, I’m a full-time speech-language pathologist (SLP) student and hold down a part-time job at a preschool. Classes just started up again and I was appalled when a professor asked me why I was even trying, if I really was so sick. Usually, I get this question from other students or other peers. I expect some amount of ignorance, but professors usually do not ask me why. I have several answers to his question and others who wonder why I try: 1. If I focus on being sick all the time, then the illness doesn’t just rob me of my physical health, it robs me of my mental and emotional well-being just as much. School and work keep me sane. If I didn’t have something to distract me from being sick, then being sick would become all-consuming. 2. Sure I may be sick, but it is not what I want my life to be defined by. I recently heard one of my fellow students describing me to a younger student as the “one who’s always sick.” That is not what I want people to identify me as. Being sick is just one very small aspect of what I am, but it is not who I am. My best friend told me she describes me as the strongest and most empathetic person she knows. I would much rather be defined by things other than my illness. 3. Goals give me something to look forward to. I look forward to graduating in December, a goal I have had for the last year. By focusing on that goal instead of the surgery I have coming up, I have less anxiety. Looking towards the future as optimistically as possible makes some of the medical things less intimidating. Instead of being scared about a procedure, I try to look at it as something that will help me stay healthy enough to reach my goal. 4. My life needs to have more meaning than just being sick all the time. I believe that the obstacles in our lives are there to make us better people. My cancer has made me more empathetic towards people I may work with as a future SLP, since the surgery from the cancer paralyzed one of my vocal cords and I lost my ability to talk for a while. My Ehlers-Danlos syndrome has taught me that I can handle just about anything. The pain and procedures I have been through, without terrible complaint, have astounded my doctors and other providers. I hope this helps my professor understand why I try, because I have to, otherwise I am only defined by my illness. Instead of asking me why, ask me why not. I am just as capable as anyone else, despite my illness. No matter how many times you ask me why, or doubt me, I refuse to give up. As long as people understand that, then we are good.

A Letter to Professors From a Chronically Ill Student

Dear professors, I enjoy learning a lot and am grateful for you taking the time to expand my knowledge. I want to be successful and am sure you want your students to succeed as well. I’m not a “normal” student though. You probably received the e-mail from the campus disability office about my accommodations. Yes, I am allowed extra time on tests, absence leniency, and the ability to leave the classroom during class. There are some things I can’t get accommodations for that I want you to know about too. There are times when I can type and take notes fine. This is rare though. Most of the time I have a finger or knuckle dislocated and both activities are excruciating. This won’t be visible to you and I might not tell you because it happens so often. I often don’t know until the middle of class. If I suddenly stop taking notes, don’t freak out and assume I’m not listening. Chances are, I have turned on the dictation program on my computer to type for me. I may show up to class in a brace or on crutches. This means I dislocated something — probably doing something that wouldn’t hurt a healthy person. I would prefer to not give you the whole story. I have been ridiculed enough for breaking my hand in yoga and playing charades. Just trust that if my injury will affect my work, I will talk to you myself about accommodations. Sometimes I have barely dragged myself out of bed to be in class. I will not look my best on these days and will probably answer questions wrong if called on, due to this awful thing called brain fog. If I look like a zombie, please don’t call on me that day. I am pretty good about communicating when I can’t be in class. There are times though where I might not get the chance to shoot an e-mail or make a phone call. I am not being disrespectful. I was probably rushed off to the OR for a procedure and they frown on taking phones into a sterile environment. The minute I can, you will hear from me. When I do have an absence and a doctor’s note excusing me, please don’t ask for more details. If I feel like sharing why I was gone, I will. Some things are just too personal, especially if you are a professor of the opposite sex. Lastly, you are privy to the information that I am ill. It is not something that I want broadcasted to all of my other classmates or professors. If I feel like sharing with them I will, but please do not expect me to share my experiences in class or assume other people know. I have to trust you with this information to be successful in your class. I know I am not your average student, but that doesn’t mean I am not trying my best to appear to be to everyone else. I am a person first, a patient second. I did not choose to be different, it just happened to be the hand I was dealt. Please respect my privacy and contact me directly for questions. Like every other student, I just want to do my best in your class. Thanks, Your Chronically Ill Student