Behind The Smiles

Behind The Smiles

​Behind these smiles are stories. Stories of tribulation, suffering, fear and uncertainty.
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Someone I hold close to my heart received some difficult news today and I was inspired to write about the unspoken and melancholy effects critical illnesses have on a patient. While medical conditions cause severe emotional distress amongst family members, we sometimes forget to address the flood of emotions the patient is facing.

Coming from someone who fought for their life for 2 years, the array of emotions felt during an illness is overwhelming. The minute you get told your prognosis by your doctor, or in my case, unknown prognosis, you definitely go through the 5 stages of grief.

It starts with denial. It’s honestly hard to believe that you went from having a somewhat normal life to having a tube implanted for life support, intensive chemotherapy treatment to kill your cancer or even a time limit put on your life. Perhaps you woke up with a side ache, and that night you’re going to bed knowing you have a kidney disease. The news can be hard to comprehend, but eventually reality sets in.

The denial then turns to anger, but the anger usually doesn’t last long. It’s common to ask the question, “why me”? It’s understandable for a patient to lash out on family over little things, because inside they are trying to cope with the fact that their life is forever changed. Like I said, the anger doesn’t last long, because no one likes to be angry.

The anger transforms into bargaining, because the patient is racking their brain trying to decipher the reasoning for their situation. They feel helpless and vulnerable and want to have control over their life again, so they’ll question whether the outcome would be different if they had sought medical attention sooner or if the prognosis would be different if they got a second opinion. This is completely logical. It is tough to conceptualize the fact that you may no longer be seen as “Alex”, but rather “the sick girl”, “the girl with the tube in her nose”, “the girl in the wheelchair” or even “the girl that almost died”. But, when reality sinks in deeper, the bargaining stops.

The more and more you continue to live your life knowing you have a certain medical condition or in pain and discomfort, you simply get sad. I remember the numerous nights I sat in the hospital bed crying and crying until, literally, I had no tears left to cry. I was tired of fighting, I was tired of the hospital, I was tired of the endless examinations, IVs, vitals, ER trips and doctors. I wanted my bed, I wanted my dog, I wanted my family and I wanted my home. Home is where I felt comforted, it was familiar and it was a place I didn’t feel like a patient. I just felt like Alex: a daughter, sister, cousin and friend. But, you can’t pity yourself forever when you’re in these situations.

It doesn’t take long for patients to accept their condition and to live life with optimism and gratitude. It’s funny, because all the warriors fighting medical battles that I have met, always have a positive attitude and smile on their face. But, when I was in the hospital, my mom would get distressed when countless doctors would ask her, “Are you sure her illness isn’t self-inflicted? She doesn’t seems like a sick kid, she always is smiling, bubbly and laughing.” That was my way of coping; if I was going to spend all of my holidays for 2 years in a hospital room, then I was going to decorate my room, make friends with the nurses, take laps around the hospital with my IV pole and find unexplored avenues I hadn’t been through yet.

I wasn’t always an upbeat patient though, I definitely had my fair share of trials and defeats.

The day I got my feeding tube implanted, I had had an endoscopy procedure earlier in the day. The endoscope tore my throat up and left it completely raw, exactly in the spot where my tube pressed against as it passed through to my intestines. The pain I felt that night from the pressure of the tube on my completely exposed throat was excruciating. I couldn’t talk or swallow it hurt so bad. All I wanted to do was cry, but the minute I started to cry, the pain got even worse. That was one of many moments I admitted defeat and wanted to give up my fight. But, deep down I knew I couldn’t stop fighting. The thought of letting my family down, relinquishing my fervent foundation of faith and giving up on myself fueled me to persevere.

My brother, who has been blessed with the gift of humor, used his jokes to his advantage. He learned through my illness, that he can use his humor to uplift others when they are down. He used to put his white computer charger into his nostril and wrap it behind his ear to pretend he had a feeding tube, just like me. Being a typical 15 year old boy, he took my giant teddy bear and taped it above the sink and turned the faucet on. Of course, as juvenile humor does, I laughed and a smile grew across my face. I realized the amazing support system I had to pick me up when I fell down was worth far more than the pain I endured.

We have a smile on our face, we offer smiles and laughs to friends, family and strangers. We have a love for helping others and living life like everyone else. We handle our situations with grace and dignity. We don't give up. We may look okay, but everyday brings pain, trials, fear and sadness. But everyday, we smile, we love, we laugh and we remember...we are fighting this battle for ourselves, our family, our friends and our futures.

Behind these smiles are stories. Stories of tribulation, suffering, fear and uncertainty.

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

Cover Image Credit: Give A Smile Today

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An Open Letter To The Girl Trying To Get Healthy Again

"I see you eating whatever you want and not exercising" - Pants
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Dear girl trying to get back in shape,

I know it's hard. I know the hardest thing you may do all day is walk into the gym. I know how easy it is to want to give up and go eat Chicken McNuggets, but don't do it. I know it feels like you work so hard and get no where. I know how frustrating it is to see that person across the table from you eat a Big Mac every day while you eat your carrots and still be half of your size. I know that awful feeling where you don't want to go to the gym because you know how out of shape you are. Trust me, I know.

SEE ALSO: To The Girl Trying To Lose Weight In College


The important thing is you are doing something about it. I'm sure you get mad at yourself for letting your body get this out of shape, but life happens. You have made a huge accomplishment by not having a soda in over a month, and those small changes are huge. I understand how hard it is, I understand how frustrating it is to not see results and I understand why you want to give up. Being healthy and fit takes so much time. As much as I wish you could wake up the day after a good workout with the 6 pack of your dreams, that just isn't the reality. If being healthy was easy, everyone would do it, and it wouldn't feel so good when you got there.

Remember how last January your resolution was to get back in the gym and get healthy again? Think about how incredible you would look right now if you would have stuck with it. The great thing is that you can start any time, and you can prove yourself wrong.

Tired of starting over? Then don't give up.

You are only as strong as your mind. You will get there one day. Just be patient and keep working.

Nothing worth having comes easy. If you want abs more than anything, and one day you woke up with them, it wouldn't be nearly as satisfying as watching your body get stronger.

Mental toughness is half the battle. If you think you are strong, and believe you are strong, you will be strong. Soon, when you look back on the struggle and these hard days, you will be so thankful you didn't give up.

Don't forget that weight is just a number. What is really important is how you feel, and that you like how you look. But girl, shout out to you for working on loving your body, because that shit is hard.

To the girl trying to get healthy again, I am so proud of you. It won't be easy, it will take time. But keep working out, eating right, and just be patient. You will be amazed with what your body is capable of doing.

Cover Image Credit: Stock Snap

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Knowing Your Love Language And Learning To Love Yourself

As someone who has struggled a lot with self love, this has changed everything for me.
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There's nothing I love more than personality tests. You can find me on any given day reading about my zodiac sign, finding future careers based on my Myers-Briggs personality type, or taking BuzzFeed quizzes to see which Kardashian/Jenner I am (Kourtney, obviously).

But, the most useful test I've found thus far is the 5 Love Languages Test. While it's original purpose is to connect with others, I've taken a spin on it and used it to connect better with myself. As someone who has struggled a lot with self-love, this has changed everything for me.

Here are some tips on how to really practice loving yourself based on your Love Languages test results.

1. Words of Affirmation

This is something that we focus way too much on receiving from other people. Affirmation is something that we can so easily give ourselves. Some good ways to do this are to leave yourself positive notes around your room or keep a journal to write down each small success you have in a day. If you still just crave affirmation from others, know that wanting attention ISN'T a bad thing. Post that amazing selfie and let the comments roll in, ask your friends/significant other what they love about you, or even listen to some motivational talks on YouTube.

2. Acts of Service

We're all familiar with the phrase "treat yo' self", but what about "serve yo' self"? Think about what actions you like to take in order to show your love to others, maybe it's cooking them dinner or cleaning their room. Now, do that for yourself! Sometimes simply setting aside a day to get done with all of your chores and assignments is the best way to love yourself. As someone who gets really anxious when tasks pile up, I know that there is no better feeling than making a list of what I need to do and checking everything off.

3. Receiving Gifts

OK, here's where "treat yo' self" comes into play. If you're feeling down, go for some retail therapy or buy yourself a meal from your favorite restaurant! There are endless possibilities of what you could gift yourself, and you know what you want better than anybody else. As broke college students, sometimes we can't afford to spend too much money on ourselves, so some more financially friendly options could be to craft a cute decoration for your room or my go to - buying yourself a McDonald's coke.

4. Quality Time

Whether Quality Time is your love language or not, this is something that we should all try to do every once in a while. It's so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of our lives that we stop focusing on ourselves. But luckily for us, this is something that is super easy to fix. Try waking up a little earlier every morning and just spend genuine time with yourself. You could meditate, exercise, journal, take a bath, listen to your favorite songs - whatever makes you feel the most in tune with yourself. Remember that spending time with yourself is just as important as spending time with other people.

5. Physical Touch

I'll admit, this one is kind of odd. I mean, you can't go around hugging yourself or holding your own hand. But you can control this a little more than you'd think. A great way to satisfy this love language is to get a message! This is super convenient for people who live on UK's campus because there is a Massage Envy location right off of Euclid Avenue. If you have a significant other, plan a fun movie night and snuggle up. If you have pets, snuggle up with them! And always make sure to give friends and family extra hugs any chance you get - I'm sure they'll appreciate it, too!

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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