Invisible Illness Part One: Forever Quarantine

A week into quarantine and my little family was not miserable… but we miss the little things so much! Like going to the library, going to church, and going on a date with my husband.

It felt like much longer than a week already. And I was, and am, pretty ready for it to be over.

And then I talked with my best friend, Tiffany who has a chronic illness. I get a special window into what life is like for her. I see her smile through the hard and good days. I see her light up on days when she actually feels like doing something. And I see her force smiles from under blankets and heating pads on the bad days.

I have cried with her over time, experiences, and little bits of life lost to her because of her condition. And I have cheered in triumph when her various chronic illnesses gave her a mild day and she got the chance to be almost normal for a day or even just a few hours.

While we were chatting I asked if her day to day life had changed much with the COVID-19 lockdown.

“My life hasn’t changed much. This is pretty normal for me.”

Then I realized she lives in quarantine, the thing I am desperate to escape, all the time.

She always has to avoid public places as often as she can. You think human beings spread germs when there is a pandemic, imagine how careless they are when it’s business as usual. Something as innocent as touching a table with flu germs on it could put her out of commission for 1-2 weeks minimum. That’s if it doesn’t turn into Pneumonia or something else, which it more often does than doesn’t.

When a “regular” person comes back from the doctor they usually get 1-2 prescriptions and maybe a shot from their care provider. Tiffany comes home with half a dozen different medications and several shots. And she has to go multiple times a year, especially during flu season. She then has to fight the barrage of medication along with the illness. She takes longer to recover and there have been many times when they medication didn’t help and she has to do multiple visits with even more medications and shots. All this for what started out as a single germ on an apple at a grocery store because someone touched their kids snotty face and then the apples. I know I have been guilty of carelessness too!

She has to avoid big gatherings because shaking hands, hugs, and bumping elbows mean nothing to others but again, could mean she is in extra pain, on medication, and unproductive for weeks. Or worse it could be the last time she ever gets sick, because this time her body was too tired to finish the fight. More likely than not when she does die it will be from something that someone like me could take vitamin C for and be better in a few days. But she won’t.

In this blog series I am going to be covering what it is like to be living with chronic illness. This can vary so much from illness to illness, situation to situation, and person to person. So I will be using Tiffany as a way to get personal side of what it’s like, while also sharing a variety of information to help us better understand this group of people as a whole in our society.

Tiffany pointed out that some of the problem is that people often times learn about other people from movies. And the characters in these stories get better or they die. So few of us know what it looks like to have to live with an illness and never get better.

She doesn’t have extra fear like we do. Because this is her life. Every bug is a killer bug and her immune system is the perfect place for any of them to make their home. What we all need to be aware of is that this particular killer bug is violent for people like my friend.

She’s beautiful. Young. Passionate. She inspires me every day.

She’s had to give up a lot in her life. Like having children, traveling, Having a single moment with no pain at all, living a single day without thinking about her health… just to name a few.

Tiffany has to take the same precautions we are taking now and more every single day even when there isn’t an outbreak. And she still gets sick with multiple illnesses more often than not.

Please stay inside for her as much as you can. Your hair, your nails, your social life is not more important than her whole life.

And when this quarantine ends, which it will, remember that people like my friend are still with us, they still face risks every day. And they are worthy, and deserving of our protection and consideration.

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