To The 11-Year-Old Me Diagnosed With Chronic Illness

To The 11-Year-Old Me Diagnosed With Chronic Illness

A letter to the little girl whose world has turned away.

Dear 11-year-old me,

Listen, things are going to start changing and they’re going to start changing fast. Please don’t be discouraged. Things will begin to test you, and your strength; the ground will crumble under your feet. Please don’t let your strength waiver. It will feel like the end of the world, on more than one occasion, please don’t believe it. People will come and they will go, sometimes you’ll be overwhelmed with support and other times you’ll crave it. Please don’t forget your worth. There will be a lesson to learn through each obstacle you face and moment you enjoy, please don’t lose your desire to learn from life. The world you will become immersed in will shake you, it will break you and it will crush you but please, don’t ever let it consume you.

Dear 11-year-old me,

This is where the pain starts. Deep breath. It hurts—I know, it starts off weak but within an hour it will have you on your knees. You’ll go to the hospital, a lot, too many times to count. Many of the people you encounter from now on will not care about your dancing or your favorite subject, you will be defined by a medical record, a statistic, a number—you will never hear your name said as it was before. The long hallways become familiar, I promise; the cold, gray examination rooms will not. A warm smile from a nurse will always ease the sting of a needle piercing through your skin, but it will not be enough to save you from the smells that have become so anxiety provoking your body can only relinquish through vomit. The heaviness of the morphine will be enough to numb your pain and your mind, the nausea will be a new battle in itself. That fear of needles? It will be replaced with something bigger, much too big to comprehend. Lay down. Take advantage of the warm blankets as the fluids and potions being guided into your body try to cool you. The relief will be brief, the tests will come back clear, the doctors will stop caring, the cycle will continue.

Dear 11-year-old me,

This is where they took out your appendix and soon after your gall bladder. You will get your first diagnosis, but not your last. You will become a gamble, a mere chance, a rarity, a medical anomaly. You will be diagnosed over a span of 8 years, the diagnoses will not come easily or quickly but they will stick. It will teach you patience better than it can be taught. This is where you begin to understand the new world you are in. For most of it you won't be okay, some days you will wake up and curse the air you breathe and other days you will be thankful for another day. You’ll meet the most incredible people, they will change your life with their mere presence. It’s important to hold onto them because the others will leave. Yes, over diseases and circumstances you cannot control you will lose what was never yours to begin with, you will learn what was meant to be and what was not. You will learn to be OK while being broken beyond repair.

Dear 11-year-old me,

Stop, stop scratching! Do you see that small dot? It’s going to turn into a welt, and the more you scratch it the more that it will flare into a hive. First there is one, then there will be two, soon it will be your whole arm and no time will be wasted until your chest starts to become flushed. Someone will notice before you do, you don’t know what to look for. When you see your flushed, hive filled body you will instantly be aware of the pounding of your heart. No, it shouldn’t be going this fast. By the time you get to a hospital your lips will be swollen and your chest collapsing. What is this? What’s going on? Your body will crave a full breath of oxygen so desperately you begin to wheeze as if you are breathing under water. The panic will set in as you try to clear the obstruction from your throat preventing you from breathing freely. You don’t know it yet, but there’s nothing there—it’s just swelling. This is anaphylaxis, this is a new normal. It will take everything from you: foods, activities, clothing, perfume, makeup, it will stop at nothing. Soon the nurse will inject you with epinephrine. Breathe through the burning. You’ll feel your heart start to race as if you’ve run a marathon; you will sweat, you will vomit, but that obstruction will clear itself and the hives will resolve. The physical symptoms will go away within 24 to 48 hours, but each anaphylactic shock will remain vivid in your head. They won't all end like this, sometimes it will be too much damage to repair and your body will be kept alive by a mechanical machine that will breathe for you. The hiss of a ventilator will become a noise that will make you sick, despite being sedated you will never forget the feeling of a tube down your throat and the sounds of voices peering through sedation will echo in your mind forever.

Dear 11-year-old me,

Don’t lose your passion. This is where dance gets taken away, I know; God, I know it hurts more than ever before. You don’t have to put that dance bag away forever, keep it as a reminder. It’s going to hurt for a long time, you won't be able to watch recitals or videos to heal your heart. That gift won't come for a long time, it will take a while for your heart to heal but once it does you can let dance back in your life again. In fact, someone really special is going to come into your life and she will make you love dance more than you did before. She will remind you of the lessons that are within a crease on the hardwood floor, she will remind you of the euphoria that comes from shaking mirrors from a bass too strong, she will remind you of the serenity that’s within dimmed lights and music that speaks for you. Dance will heal you. Dance will heal your mind. Dance will heal the empty spaces. Dance will heal your heart. Dance will heal your soul. Dance will heal. Surround yourself with it at every chance you get—don’t lose your passion.

Dear 11-year-old me,

Despite the countless moments of feeling like you won't, you will survive. Don’t be afraid, but please remember that it’s okay to be afraid. Your strength will not reside in stoicism and fearlessness, but in vulnerability and pain. Find your solace in the sun and in the sky, always remember its promise. Remember that on your darkest days, even when you feel you can’t go on, the sun will rise. Even if you don’t want to wake up, the sun will rise. The sun will break any darkness of night and will escape any cloud that hinders its light but even on the cloudiest of days, some light will still remain. The promise of warmth, of light, of new beginnings and of endless possibilities is enough to remind you that the world is rooting for you to not only live but to survive.

Cover Image Credit: Sabrina C

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5 Perks Of Having A Long-Distance Best Friend

The best kind of long-distance relationship.

Sometimes, people get annoyed when girls refer to multiple people as their "best friend," but they don't understand. We have different types of best friends. There's the going out together best friend, the see each other everyday best friend and the constant, low maintenance best friend.

While I'm lucky enough to have two out of the three at the same school as me, my "low maintenance" best friend goes to college six hours from Baton Rouge.

This type of friend is special because no matter how long you go without talking or seeing each other, you're always insanely close. Even though I miss her daily, having a long-distance best friend has its perks. Here are just a few of them...

1. Getting to see each other is a special event.

Sometimes when you see someone all the time, you take that person and their friendship for granted. When you don't get to see one of your favorite people very often, the times when you're together are truly appreciated.

2. You always have someone to give unbiased advice.

This person knows you best, but they probably don't know the people you're telling them about, so they can give you better advice than anyone else.

3. You always have someone to text and FaceTime.

While there may be hundreds of miles between you, they're also just a phone call away. You know they'll always be there for you even when they can't physically be there.

4. You can plan fun trips to visit each other.

When you can visit each other, you get to meet the people you've heard so much about and experience all the places they love. You get to have your own college experience and, sometimes, theirs, too.

5. You know they will always be a part of your life.

If you can survive going to school in different states, you've both proven that your friendship will last forever. You both care enough to make time for the other in the midst of exams, social events, and homework.

The long-distance best friend is a forever friend. While I wish I could see mine more, I wouldn't trade her for anything.

Cover Image Credit: Just For Laughs-Chicago

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Poetry On Odyssey: Some Days

A poem that reminds you that you're not alone.


Some days,

You dread the sound of your alarm. You snooze and snooze and snooze and snooze.

When you finally pull yourself out of bed, pressed time forces you to throw on stained sweats

you find yourself chugging a cup of coffee.

You sit on the couch and contemplate calling out of work

You caught the stomach bug,

Or perhaps the flu,

Maybe you broke your collar bone

Or need a new phone

The endless list of excuses repeats through your head as you sit on the couch, wishing you were still in bed.

It takes every ounce

Every breath

Every fiber of your being to pull yourself off the couch

And into the car

And into the building where you work

Some days,

This is just how it goes

You are not alone.

Some days,

You awake to the beautiful sound of birds

Chirping outside your window

The sun sneaks its way into your room

A smile creeps across your face as you realize you are awake to see a new day

You make a good breakfast

You read a few pages of your favorite book

You get your mind ready for the things it will accomplish today

Before you know it you've worked an entire day

Your job is done

As you pull into your driveway,

you take a few breaths

Feeling grateful for another meaningful day.

Some days,

This is how it goes

You are not alone.

Every day is a gamble,

Every day is a gift

The key to getting more good days

Is believing that everyday is one.

You are not alone, this is just how it goes.

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