How I Survive My Chronic Illness

Chronic illness has humbled me in this way; it has shown me that needing support from loved ones, and sometimes even total strangers, is not a sign of weakness, but one of strength.

A Sign of Strength

I have always been an independent woman. Even at a young age I insisted on completing tasks on my own. For me, accepting assistance equaled weakness or a lack of ability. Chronic illness has humbled me in this way; it has shown me that needing support from loved ones, and sometimes even total strangers, is not a sign of weakness, but one of strength.

Chronic illness can shatter the life you once knew in a matter of weeks. How is one person supposed to cope with such a monumental event as a diagnosis that will stick with you until your last days? The honest truth is you can’t. One person facing such adversity alone would have no hope of pulling their head above water; you need someone who can help pull you out of the depth.

My conception of time was no longer based around holidays and exciting events. The passing weeks became established by my next appointment, procedure or surgery. I watched the world through waiting room windows wondering where my life had gone.

How to Survive a Chronic Illness: Accept Charity with a Gracious Heart

When your life is stolen from you by disability you feel helpless, alone and weak. Sometimes the only way to not be engulfed by the sorrow of illness is to accept charity with a gracious heart.

At first I struggled and fought charity from others whether it was money, help around the house or a simple ride to doctor’s visits. I desperately wanted to be that independent woman, not realizing I was hurting myself and those around me who had to watch me struggle.

Family – The Biggest Support

My family has been my biggest support from the start, and while they got the grunt of my grumpy attitude toward charity, they taught me it is the only way to survive a chronic illness. There are days when the reality of my illness hits too hard. I feel unequivocally broken, but my family and friends are there to pick up my pieces. They have rotated their lives around my illness and for that I am forever grateful.

We’ve had to make adjustments. Holidays no longer center around food as I have lost the ability to eat and am fed by a tube. Homes are stocked with extra fluffy blankets and heating pads as my vascular system no longer functions properly and I get very cold. Family outings are now planned around activities that my body can handle appropriately without the debilitating after-effect of fatigue. When I am hospitalized there is always someone in the chair next to my bed whether it’s 1 p.m. or 1 a.m. My family will take shifts to make sure I am never alone.

I am never alone. That is what makes chronic illness bearable.

After years of dealing with the beast known as chronic illness, I have learned many things about myself, my coping process and the support system we all must surround ourselves with. Few things in life prepare you to no longer recognize the woman you have come to know in the mirror for so many years. When you look now your reflection shows someone shaped by suffering, pain and loss; However, if you look at her for a little bit longer you see the strength, perseverance and fighting spirit she carries with her at all times just to survive another day.

The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned

The most important thing I have learned throughout my battle is to accept that I am no longer the same woman I was. While yes, that is a hard pill to swallow, it is the only thing that has truly set me free of the burden I so grudgingly dragged with me. Trials change you in a way many do not understand until they have faced their own.

Once I understood and accepted my new limitations, I was able to find happiness in things I could currently accomplish. I no longer burdened myself with failing attempts to execute the tasks my body once could achieve. I found happiness in the wonderful people I connected with who were fighting similar battles and in the beauty life had to offer, even in a body vandalized by disease. I embraced this post-diagnosis woman, one who exuded strength, resilience and vigor.

A Pivotal Moment in My Chronic Illness

The most pivotal moment in your chronic illness is whether you will accept this “new you” or not; accept this new life governed by assistance from others. While the immense internal struggle may last for years, I assure you, once you let go, you will immerse yourself in a journey you never could have imagined. Remember to accept charity with a gracious heart and let others around you be your crutch when you are too weak to stand on your own.

Chanel White is a young woman battling Systemic Scleroderma, among many other conditions. While chronic illness is a full time job, she is also a wife, a Montessori teacher, a blogger and a chronic illness advocate.

Are you or a loved one facing a chronic illness or other health journey?

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  • Starlia

    Thank you, I read your story and your an inspiration. I have chronic illness and a double surgery coming up. Fear can be powerful. Thats why reading your story (and those like it) is so inspiring. Hugs to you and your family.

  • Leslie Einhaus

    I totally related to this story. I was diagnosed with a rare condition called Swannomatosis, a form of NF or Neurofibromatosis. I have numerous (internal) tumors on my nerves. As you might guess, it causes extreme me pain. I am and was once was the independent woman. It is hard tTo let go of that in certain situations. This article was inspiring. I wish you the very best, Chanel! -Leslie

  • D Haughton

    I understand what you go through day after day as I have a daughter in her 30s who has been going through illness and chronic pain for over 7 years. One day life was good and then her life slowly changed. I only wish there was better understanding and more compantion from others.

  • Carol Siedler

    Thank you Chanel, I pray you receive the strength and kindness you’ve given me today.

  • Mary Look

    My granddaughter has schleroderma. Hers is not systemic. I hope you don’t mind if I ask if yours started out this way

  • Frannie Stites

    Thank you, Chanel, for your insight and wisdom. I am just beginning my journey with Multiple Myeloma, and you have helped me immensely with the coping part.

  • Christine Cardon

    Chanel is a lady who stopped mourning because of the things she could no longer do; she takes joy in those things that she can do. And she does so very much!

  • Lavanya Kumar

    Dear Chanel just surrender your illness to “Grace”,He will make you strong and give strength to cross this period.Keep listening to good music,Do what makes you happy and keep in Harmony.Lots and Lots of Love to you.

  • Roberta

    We love you Chanel! Noel too 🙂

  • Sharron

    I have had 3 back surgeries & been bed ridden 80% of the last 8 plus years. 63 yrs old, married & the mother of 7. So many people don’t understand chronic Illnessness. Even many at our small town hospital don’t.

  • Linda Lee

    May God give you strength. Its so hard to deal with a chronic illness. My daughter has two and is very independent. It’s all day by day- step by step.
    Peace be with you,

  • Cheryl Alberternst

    Thank you for sharing Chanel.