Watching your loved one suffer is always a challenging feat. Knowing there is nothing you can do to help them through the process, but only lay by their side holding their hand can make you feel powerless. This is something I know all too well. My mom has been diagnosed with a rare autoimmune and vasculitis disorder for more than 20 years. Every year, we visit her specialist to see how her condition is doing. With her diagnosis, there is no cure, there is no remission, there is just control.
A few years after my mom graduated from college, she was hospitalized for more than 100 days within a single year. She was placed on a ventilator, coded on the table, pronounced dead, and even ripped out her own ventilator, permanently damaging her vocal cords. To some people, these events might sound terrifying, and they are. But to my family, they are struggles which my mom has been able to overcome, simply adding them to her resume.
For most of my life, my mom was steroid dependent, needing them to manage her condition. In fact, one of my earliest memories is walking through a hospital with my dad to visit her. Throughout all of her struggles, my mom is my hero, despite every obstacle she faced; being sick, doctors not believing her, friends not understanding her illness she continues to fight. Recently, she posted one of her photos on Instagram. It was one from her modeling days, and although she looks beyond beautiful, she was incredibly sick. Inspired by her courage, I decided to repost her photo on my Instagram story, but I found that instead of commenting on the content of the writing, they commented on how pretty she looked. I decided to write this to share just how much I admire and respect my mom and her strength through her illness.
Doctors told her she would never have a child because she was too sick. When I once told a friend this she responded, "So you're a miracle baby?" I never considered myself as that since my mom never led me to think that. My mom is the true miracle, always fighting her illness and fighting for others.
My mom's illness can be categorized as an invisible illness, meaning it is not immediately noticeable. She is not confined to a wheelchair, nor does she have a visual physical ailment. Since my mom looked physically fine, doctors were reluctant to acknowledge something was wrong. In truth, she was pretty sick. She was beautiful but barely clinging on to life. This way of thinking is not uncommon. People are reluctant to understand the severity and importance of an invisible illness. After my mom's Instagram post, she was inundated with countless messages thanking her for promoting the importance of advocating for patients.
My mom knew she had to become a doctor and advocate for patients like her. She takes time learning who her patients are and their full medical history, something rarely done in the medical field. What makes her even more awesome is that she is now a writer and an expert for hundreds of magazines, and she will fight for all her patients the way she wished people fought for her when she was sick. She is the doctor everyone deserves to have.
Remember, someone may not look physically ill, but that does not mean they aren't suffering. As a society, we are losing compassion for those who struggle. We need to accept others regardless of what we see.