I remember the first time I had cancer. I was 26-years-old and newly engaged (my timing was never stellar). My oncologist sat across from me talking about the surgery I was about to encounter to remove the tumor from my chest along with the chemo and radiation that followed.
He said not to worry, I was young and strong, and there were plenty of resources out there to support me.
And support me they did.
In the hospital, I was visited daily my the local priest (I’m not catholic but I figured maybe he had an in with the Big Guy, so I greeted him openly). Next came the daffodils. Did you know that cancer patients get daffodils? I got so many daffodils that I tried to spread them around the ward only to find all the other bald patients over run by them too.
Then the social workers checked in to see how I was handling my fate. After that the family and friends arrived. Last but not least, a church group dropped in and offered to lay hands on me.
Once I got home the casseroles started pouring in. I still have the bakeware of well meaning neighbors that didn’t scotch tape their names to them.
Finally, I got better. Everyone gave me the customary high-five and we all went on with our lives.
A few years later I got an autoimmune disease no one had heard of, including me, and it was radio silence.
Where were the casseroles? No support groups emailing to ask how I was doing? Heart-felt cards? Not even a daffodil?
Why didn’t anyone care?
Then it hit me. It wasn’t that they didn’t care, they just didn’t understand what I was going through. With cancer, there is a beginning, middle, and an end. The end may not be the outcome you wanted, but at least the suffering is over. It was easy to champion a disease that involved visuals and a finite amount of focus.
With an autoimmune, we are just as sick, but it isn’t as obvious.
I realized the demon that had invaded my body was mine alone to fight. There would be no sympathy gestures because no one understood what I was going through. I tried to explain what Myasthenia Gravis was, but after the baffled stares and incorrect pronunciations, I finally stopped talking about it.
I was going to have to be the hero of my story. I quickly became a warrior, fighting my inner demon, strengthening my resolve to win the battle with disease.
I didn’t need the cards or the dinners. [bctt tweet=”We already have everything we need for battle – Perseverance, Faith, and an Unyielding Will. “]
We all have these qualities in us. We just need to dig a little deeper and find them sometimes. Although our demons may be invisible, they are just as real, So is our pain. But quietly, we will all win our fight.
We are warriors.
Lisa Douthit has been there and done that. After four different cancers and two autoimmune diseases, nobody can navigate illness like she can. In her book Wellness Warrior-Fighting for Life in Fabulous Shoes she discusses what it takes to be a Warrior for compassionate, integrative healthcare. You can find more articles like this one on her website lisadouthit.com, on the Facebook Page, or join her private FaceBook group Wellness Warrior Tribe.