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I live with (or have lived with, in the case of my cancer) six different invisible illnesses: acute promyelocytic leukemia, hepatitis C, Type 2 diabetes, dysautonomia, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Sure, when you look at me, you really can't see any of these illnesses: I look pretty much like any other human being alive on planet Earth. But looks can be deceiving, even misleading, when you struggle every day to live your best life despite chronic illness.
Sure, having an invisile illness makes it easy to pass for "normal." Other people won't know you have an illness unless you tell them. Sometimes it's better not to say anything to avoid other people's questions, quizzical or judgemental looks, prejudice, avoidance or rejection. But it's not so easy to hide your invisible illnesses from everyone; the more someone spends time with me, the more they are bound to notice that something is amiss. Which got me thinking that maybe my invisible illnesses really aren't so invisible after all. You just have to pay a little closer attention to see the signs that are visible.
I bet if you take a closer look, you will notice:
- I catch frequent colds and flus, which often make me very ill for several weeks at a time. You'll see me in line at Costco for a flu shot every year.
- I make frequent trips to a variety of doctors. You can see me regularly driving to the UCLA and Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Centers.
- I frequently use medications and can often been seen pulling a pill box out of my purse or pocket. At the pharmacy, I visit so often that the pharmacist and staff greet me by my first name.
- I pull a glucometer out of my purse and use it to test my blood sugar before and after meals. I also give myself a quick injection of Byetta before I eat ... I've even been so brazen as to inject right at the table in a restaurant! Hungry? I also have a snack or two in my purse for low blood sugar moments.
- I keep a folding cane+seat combination in my car and use it for quick errands and doctors' appointments. Where ever I go, you'll notice that I am always looking for a place to sit down.
- I can been seen almost every night walking my dog down my street using a mobility scooter. I also use my scooter at Costco, the supermarket and on my infrequent outings to places like the museum or events like concerts.
- After years of owning and prefering a manual transmission, I no longer drive a stick shift car.
- After years of building a career, I now can be found at home during the day, every day.
- I wear a Medic Alert bracelet or watch every single day.
- When I can find a space, you'll observe that I make frequent use of available handicapped parking. Watch for me to pull my handicapped placard out of my purse.