So, today is the beginning of Invisible Illness Awareness Week. Who knew? I guess I wouldn't have either if I hadn't read Kerri's post from Six Until Me this morning. I had another post all polished up and ready to go. But then I began pondering...invisible illnesses...
I've always felt that diabetes is an invisible illness. If C wasn't checking her blood glucose or manipulating her pump, the average passer-by would never know of her disease, to just glance at her. She's the epitome of a 7 year old girl. In my opinion, she's cute! Flowing blond hair, blue eyes, a hint of freckles...her body - fit and proportioned. She looks healthy, happy and energetic. In fact, that's the response I receive sometimes when people find out about her type 1 diabetes..."But she looks so healthy!"
Then there's Middle C. He is the typical 10 year old boy. He plays baseball, nearly year-round. And if he's not on the field he's riding his bike with friends, jumping everything in sight. He's lean and looks healthy. However, he had a severe episode with his asthma this past June. It kind of caught us off guard, really. He hadn't needed an inhaler or nebulizer for years. But when we had heavy, moist weather throughout May and June a while back, coupled with a new little feathered friend in the house, it made for miserable breathing conditions for him. It was scary. And it shook us up a bit, reminding us to be prepared. But to look at him now..."He looks so healthy!"
Okay, me next. I am four years out from my breast cancer diagnosis. My hair's back in full force. I don't look gaunt and "chemo-ed" out anymore. I had a great plastic surgeon and others to help me look pretty-darn-near the same as I did before cancer (fully clothed of course). And, except for about 25 extra pounds (ahem), you'd probably think..."She looks so healthy!"
I bet if you thought about it, you or someone close to you also lives with an invisible illness.
Day in and day out, moment by moment even, C's diabetes must be monitored and balanced for her to live. Middle C's asthma? Well, thankfully it's not an everyday ordeal. But it is something about which to be mindful. To hear your little kid tell you that he can't breathe well, puts an extra beat in your heart rate. And, my cancer? At the time being, it's taken care of and I do feel healthy. But I feel different. I will forever experience the side effects of the treatments. And I live daily with the possibility of recurrence.
So...what is the point of Invisible Illness Awareness Week? I believe it's to help all of us realize that just because someone "looks" healthy, doesn't mean they don't struggle with something. Everybody's got their stuff. And, as a friend, sometimes the best and most powerful thing you can do for someone is simply be there. Show an interest, a sincere gesture to learn and understand. Because chances are, if you haven't been touched by illness already, you or someone you love will be. And, it's in those times when we can all use a good friend who understands.