And yet, this realization didn't come from my own experience with lupus. Rather, it came from the thousands of interactions I've had with lupus patients from around the world. Only through their personal stories of determination and triumph did I come to realize just how much courage it takes to deal with a chronic illness.
In the past week alone, I heard from three friends who shared with me snippets of their challenges with their own chronic illnesses. It is these stories that inspired this post:
*One of my girlfriends just opted to start using a wheelchair to facilitate her ability to get out and about, after years of struggling with declining energy levels, fatigue, and overall weakness due to her chronic illness. In one fellow swoop, I say she's taken one giant, positive, productive step toward making herself mobile again. Have that, you nasty, debilitating chronic illness!
*Another girlfriend, overwhelmed by fatigue, headaches, chest pain, and a handful of other paralyzing symptoms while traveling, canceled her flight home at the last minute, knowing she was incapable of making the trip on her own with her baby in tow. Instead, she asked for help - reaching out to her husband to drive her and their son the four-hour trip home, knowing her husband would have to turn right around and drive back for work commitments. She knew she couldn't do it any other way...and the courage it takes to make such an assessment is huge. What an example of knowing your limits (even when you didn't know you had any!), and making a good, solid decision.
*Another girlfriend, after being prescribed more than a dozen medications, marched into her doctor's office, asserted herself as never before, and said something like, "I'm no longer comfortable being on all of the medications you've prescribed. What can we do about it?" Oh, yeah - taking charge and feeling better. That's how it gets done. If we don't speak up when we feel something's out of line, who will?
Of course, I'm sure none of my friends see the monumental courage it took to make the choices they did, and yet these are perfect illustrations of the kind of courage, strength, and self-awareness one must possess in order to carry on, despite an illness.
And as these examples demonstrate, it can be the choices that are put before us on an every day basis that require the most courage. Daily excursions, caring for our children, and daily pill administration - these are issues we deal with day in and day out. And when the day comes when we say "enough is enough", that is a courageous day indeed.
Let these ladies' stories be inspiration to you as they have been to me, prompting us to muster up the courage to make our own positive changes, despite our illness.