Today is the beginning of “Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week”
There are many “invisible illnesses.” Chronic means the illness doesn’t go away. The person suffers 24/7. But, most times, if you look at the patient, you wouldn’t know that person had an illness. “You don’t look sick.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states, “As a nation, 75% of our health care dollars goes to treatment of chronic diseases. These persistent conditions—the nation’s leading causes of death and disability—leave in their wake deaths that could have been prevented, lifelong disability, compromised quality of life, and burgeoning health care costs.”
Here are some “invisible chronic illnesses” that you probably recognize:
Anemia; Asthma; Autism; Cancer; Celiac disease; Crohn’s disease; Diabetes, types 1 and 2; Fibromyalgia; Lupus; Lyme disease; M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis); Osteoarthritis; and RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis).
I have listed these particularly because they are the most “invisible.”
Chronic illness is “life-altering.” Without going into too much detail, here are ways in which patients have to make life changes:
Those who suffer from any of these illnesses, have to make changes in their daily lives; and those who are severely ill, in their “activities of daily living” (ADL), which means the usual, normal and simple activities that we who are not ill, take for granted. For instance, showering or washing hands or face or toileting or standing or walking or brushing your teeth are difficult at best, or not possible at all due to body weakness. These are the simple things that most of us, who are healthy, take for granted: we get out of bed, walk to the bathroom, and, without thinking about it, take care of our daily hygiene necessities. Changes in eating patterns; taking new medications; cessation of social activities, and even job loss, are just some other life-altering occurrences.
And these patients still “don’t look sick.” It’s all within: inside, where the internal havoc is zooming (varoom!) along like a souped-up Harley-Davidson in a ’round the world race, and when reaching the finish line, goes through it and starts all over again – non-stop. There are no waving flags; no hurrahs; no congratulations and no back-slapping and no flashes of cameras taking photos for the global news.
These patients are the courageous heroines and heroes of a different order: Invisible Chronic Illness.