6 Chronic Illness Warriors I Admire
October 17, 2016 | Posted in: Chronic Life
At the risk of sounding like a creeper: I love people. If Buddy the Elf loves smiling, smiling is his favorite, I love people. People are my favorite. I am intrinsically drawn to people. If you were to ask me what my favorite thing about any job or position I’ve ever held was my answer would be simple: the people. I love to watch people. I love to cheer people on. I love to know what makes people tick. My whole world boils down to people.
And while the last thing I’d ever wish to do is create a pressure for the chronically ill to perform or inspire, the simple truth is they often do inspire me. For some it is their tenacity or bravery, for others it is their sense of humor or creativity in the midst of overwhelming obstacles. For others still, it is the lavishness of their outpouring of love, the awareness they raise, their fight for survival or any combination of these things.
Today, I want to honor a few of these people. It’s true my world is filled with brilliant, kind, hardworking, generous, far-reaching, world-changing people. I regret I can only share a few with you. However, I know you will be all the better for knowing them, as I am.
Kyle and Tracey Solomon– In October of 2011 Kyle was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer with metastasis to bones and Dura layer of the brain. I am aware cancer isn’t always viewed as a chronic illness, but team Kacey has been at this for five years now. As someone who sat by helplessly while my older brother fought cancer for just nine months at the age of 19, I can’t fathom five years of such a grueling battle. And yet, one of the things I love most of about this couple is their humor, appreciation for simple everyday things and the strength of their “we” in the midst of a very literal life and death battle.
Tracey is not my BFF and yet if she were taking applications for a new one, I’d be first in line. She is fierce, yet kind. She is funny, yet real. She is honest about her pain and uncertainty and yet, most certainly for her husband in every way. She’s also honest and realistic about her need for self-care and down time, about highs and lows, about crappy days and uncertain futures.
When I asked Tracey how she stayed grounded during this brutal season, her answer rang true to every part of her I’ve known. She said, “Morbid humor mixed with faith and supported by friends. If you are traveling a similar path, Tracey’s advice to you is, “Breathe. Sometimes just getting through the next breath is enough. Then: focus on just the very next thing. Not the next 10,000 things. Chronic illness is a marathon, not a sprint. You make it one step at a time.” You can follow Kyle and Tracey’s journey at: A Mile in Her Shoes
While Stefanie is stunningly beautiful, hilarious and talented beyond words what I have come to love and respect most about her is her vulnerability. Everyone wants to be around the “fun” girl. But I treasure the immeasurably difficult healing work Stefanie is doing day-by-day, step-by-step. I relish her tender moments of honesty, garnering support and pulling back the curtain of mental illness. Her bravery leaves me speechless as she shows the world that, like “off fleek” eyebrows, mental health stigmas are so last year.
When I asked her what’s kept her grounded during her journey she says, “I have a strong network of support that has propped me up whenever I have felt like giving into my triggers and old unhealthy methods of coping. Aside from my friends and family, I also have a great therapist and psychiatrist that I can trust who help me monitor my symptoms and signs of behavior changes. They work with me to stabilize medications. One of the more important things these people do are to keep me in check with my self- care. Because when I’m not taking good care of myself that is when I lose control over this illness. All of these individuals understand and appreciate my faith and are constantly pointing me to God. It’s not always been easy to accept having Bipolar disorder, but I know that the Lord has helped me cope with it and gain the strength to overcome it.”
Her advice to anyone walking a similar path? “There is hope! This illness is only a small part of your long life. You are strong and capable of more than you can imagine, and nothing about this disorder can keep you from accomplishing whatever you set your hearts desire on. You are not a mistake. You are not broken. You have not failed. You are worthy of love and acceptance, just as you are. You are not alone. You never have to be alone.” You can follow her journey at: Stef Says
Ellie Jean B– Ellie was diagnosed with MS on June 18, 2014. She was later diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia, which she describes as torture. One of the things I love about Ellie is her kind, generous nature as well as her concern for others. She hasn’t stopped living in spite of her body’s best attempts at thwarting her. She’s still a girl who loves adventure and appreciates all the living and loving she can do. When I asked her how she stayed grounded during her journey, she simply said, “Faith & friends & family.” Her advice to you should you find yourself in similar circumstances? “Realize that you don’t need to isolate – you can’t do it alone & you don’t need to. Asking for help isn’t weakness.” You can follow her journey at: It’s Just Ellie
Beth Paul- After four months of searching for answers, Beth was diagnosed with Lyme Disease in December of 2015. The major impacts for her have been neurologic and neuromuscular impairment. In spite of this, Beth continues to be a loving, wholly dedicated mom who lavishes her love on her children whenever her body will allow. She celebrates the tiniest victories like being able to take a photo with her children that day. While she could have chosen to be bitter about the loss of time with her children, the beauty of her perspective constantly amazes me. Beth stays grounded through, “not only the love and support of family and friends who speak truth into my life often, but also in acceptance. “In acceptance lieth peace,” wrote Amy Carmichael. I have found that by simply resting in each moment whether it ends up being difficult or easy I find more peace and comfort and endurance. That may seem like a pat answer but that resting takes total trust and dependency (which I am really not good at) in my Heavenly Father. Instead of fighting the hard things, choosing to let Him work in the hard things has really helped me to stay grounded and survive the many disappointments of chronic illness. For those like me who are finding themselves in a deep valley of long term life altering circumstances, may I encourage you to rest in the grace for today alone? Borrowing from tomorrow brings fear and doubt and looking back keeps us from hope. But resting and trusting in just enough for this moment, keeps us grounded and allows us to treasure the little joys. My journey has been learning and stretching process, and like many of you I have often wanted to just quit this very hard road. You can follow Beth’s journey at: Coffee at Midnight
Karen Stell: Karen was diagnosed with a hereditary fibromyalgia in 1996 or 1997 but she’s had the symptoms her entire life. Karen is a caregiver and a fierce protector of the ones she loves. She is an appreciator of beauty and a giver of kindness. Karen says, “My faith and family has kept me grounded during this journey. If you are traveling a similar path her words of wisdom to you are, “Don’t give up. There is hope for your future. There are advances in medical science all the time. You can get some relief for your symptoms.”
Kelly Nickerson- Kelly is a woman of hard earned wisdom and grace. Of her arduous battle toward multiple diagnosis including gastroparesis, chronic fatigue, anxiety, interstitial cystitis, irritable bowel syndrome, spinal stenosis, fibromyalgia and a renal disorder, Kelly says, “During my journey I sunk deep into depression and I clung to my faith. My husband and kids helped keep me hanging on. To be honest, I was a huge mess and really angry for the first couple of years. I was furious with God for a long time and couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t heal me. Thankfully, He gave me lots of grace and was patient with me. We had amazing people come and pray with me and help with expenses and the kids from time to time. There was a day where I basically was ready to die. I could barely breathe, walk, or talk. The doctor told me to plan my funeral, and we did. As I felt my spirit letting go, God did something amazing and turned things around. I feel like it was when I finally gave up that He was able to be my strength. My advice to others would be that God can do anything. Your diagnosis doesn’t define who you are. Know that God isn’t punishing you. I would also say what helps me to this day, when I am having a flare up, is focusing on praising Him and having and attitude of gratitude. When you have your days that you can’t take one more step, it’s okay to give yourself grace and cry. This is a journey and there will be hills and valleys. I am finding that through my suffering that it has allowed me to see a whole world of compassion, grace, and love that I never knew I could feel or see. With great sorrow, comes great joy. In my sickness, I have learned to appreciate life and those around me that much more. I have also learned to see the suffering and be the change where I can. I also would say, I am so sorry that anyone would have to walk this scary road. For them to know, that they aren’t alone and there is hope. Also that we have a purpose in all of this and goodness can come out, if we allow it. You can follow Kelly’s journey at : The Good Grief Girl
And to you my brave warrior reader friends, today I celebrate your strength and your courage, your unseen overcoming and your tenacity, your lavish offering of grace to the blissfully ignorant and well-intentioned in your world. I celebrate your ability to keep going when it seems impossible, to love yourself when you feel unlovable. Click To Tweet I commend your willingness to fight for yourself and the ones you love whatever that may look like on any given day. You are my heroes.
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