Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Journey of Chronic Illness

Jour·ney
ˈjərnē/
noun
an act of traveling from one place to another.

"she went on a long journey"

                 synonyms:
trip, expedition, excursion, tour, trek, voyage, junket, jaunt

Imagine yourself disembarking on an adventure exploring a vast land with only your mode of transportation and a map. This map can take you anywhere amongst this land. Whichever way you choose to go will determine what you encounter along the way. Each way you turn will vary in the experiences and people you encounter. Some ways will be similar while others will be substantially different in comparison. Individuals may join you and leave you at various points. Your experience along the paths you choose differ from those of others according to their chosen paths. No adventure will be exactly the same. There are too many variables leaving each traveler with a unique experience, a unique reality.

Life is a winding road of never ending experiences and adventures. The synonyms of journey truly fit the uncertainty of life. You never know what life has in store for you, what will come to be with each decision you make in life.

And so it is with chronic illness as it is with life in general. We never know from day to day if our chronic illness will change. If we will experience new symptoms or a reduction in symptoms. We enjoy our plateaus of good health while they last but these plateaus are never guaranteed. Change is the nature of chronic illness. The doctors we see, the hospitals we attend, the medications we take, the foods we eat all play a role in our chronic illness life. Each may be a positive or harmful decision for us that has the power to drastically change the development of our chronic illness. Unfortunately, like life, we don't have the foreseeing power to know what the best decision is for our chronic illness. Instead, we must make the best decision based on the knowledge we have and the circumstance we are faced with at the time. And we hope for the best.

Others disagree with using the word "journey" to describe living with a chronic illness. I, however, embrace this term for my chronic illness life. My life and my chronic illness are not mutually exclusive. For there to be one, there must be the other in my life. It is a fully inclusive circle. This isn't my preference but it is the way it is and so I will embrace this journey.

Just as we trek through life that is full of surprises - good and bad - so we trek through the journey of chronic illness. I have been overwhelmed by my encounters with others I never would have crossed paths with - physically or virtually - if it hadn't been for my chronic illness. I have made lifelong friendships with many individuals on their own chronic illness journey. I have held very dear friendships that played important roles at key moments in my life. I have been blessed with some outstanding doctors who help me along my journey. I have also been cursed with some very devastating moments throughout my chronic illness but with the support of family, friends, and medical providers I have survived those dark moments and am flourishing along a good path at present.

We all enjoy the smooth, easy paths on our voyage through chronic illness. However, we wouldn't be able to fully appreciate the beautiful tours of life if it weren't for the dark, trying passages. When we cross the bridge from the dark into the pristine, we are able to enjoy the ease with a new understanding, a new gratitude. Our eyes are reopened to the greatness of life and so we experience life with renewed senses. Unfortunately, we wouldn't experience these fulfilling moments to the same degree if we didn't trek through the difficult paths of life. And so these experiences go hand in hand to make the experience that is life complete.