At our monthly team meetings, one of our crew members discusses some of our five values: strength, courage, commitment, heart, and spark. This is Lesley’s reflection from this month’s meeting.
A while back, I saw a picture on Facebook of a suitcase filled with medical supplies which was posted by YACCer. These were her supplies for three weeks — liquids, bandages, tape, and so much more.
To look at this amazing individual, one would think she is quite healthy. She is beautiful, full of life, etc. I can imagine how many people have looked at her since she was diagnosed and said, “But you don’t look sick.” Look Sick. Seriously. Individuals who have never dealt with a chronic illness do not understand that you don’t need to be bald and in a hospital bed to be sick, to struggle with the every day.
The image of her suitcase made me want to share it with the masses. To show the “able bodied” a visual representation of her everyday life. Seeing it in such a clear picture would (hopefully) help bring it home that she is living her everyday differently than them, and while she looks good, she doesn’t always feel good. Every day can be a struggle.
But then I stopped. This individual is incredible. She doesn’t live her life with a “poor me” mentality. She shares incredible moments in her life, her artistic abilities, and her genuinely grateful personality with the world. She is not a victim. She is an individual that has to live her life differently than I live mine. She doesn’t need to be a poster child for chronic illness; she is so much more than that.
Everyone in our community has a different reality, but they all have the courage to go into the world each day and live it. They face the cringeworthy comments of “but you don’t look sick,” and “you’re finished treatment! Life can get back to normal,” all while knowing they are facing a new normal.
I don’t say this to bash the healthy — I also struggle with these difficult conversations from time to time. It is easier sometimes to look on the bright side and tell someone they look great versus having the sometimes tougher conversation of “you look good, but how are you actually feeling.” I strive every day to have some of the courage I see in our community, to have the tough conversations, to face the hard emotions. That is when you get to the core of the human existence. That is where you get to truly know people and help people — even yourself.
I want to thank this individual for sharing her reality. It brings a perspective we all need to see from time to time. My suitcase is different than yours, but we all have baggage of our own.