Doctors diagnosed me with myasthenia gravis at the end of my first year at university. I was symptomatic the entire year and running from specialist to specialist begging for a diagnosis. Most of that year is a blur, but one thing made the period bearable and memorable: my new friend Linda.
We had neighboring rooms in the university residence. When we met, I was completely uninvolved with the medical and spoonie community and unaware of the rigorous experience it could be. I soon found out Linda has cystic fibrosis. She was the first person I had met with a chronic illness and she was nothing like I had imagined “sick people” to be.
She was a ray of sunshine with a very honest outlook on life. When she spoke, others would always listen. Most noticeably, she carried herself with such grace that I was awed she wanted to be my friend. We quickly became close friends and I soon learned her life was much harder than she made it seem.
I remember very clearly, just after I had started on prednisone, that I was lying on her bed when suddenly my face flushed and I started sweating. Self-consciously I just said I had no idea what was going on and tried to play it cool like I wasn’t fazed. In reality, I was very confused and embarrassed. She took one look at me and calmly said, “Welcome to life on prednisone.”
That was the first time I came to the obvious realization that I was not the only person who had ever experienced that side effect. Just by being a part of my life, Linda showed me that I was not alone at a time in my journey when I felt very much alone. I realized that she had been through the same and different treatments, and she still seemed to fit perfectly into society. I could, too.
She played an intricate role in validating my self-worth and in helping me realize that I deserve everything my healthy peers do. Linda has made me confident in my future just by the graceful way she lives her life despite cystic fibrosis always filling it. She was my first role model and to this day I look to her for advice on the things complicated by life with chronic illness, such as romantic relationships, family, and friendships.
This month, I witnessed her marry the love of her life: a compassionate man with the respect for her she deserves. I saw her become one with someone who accepts her and every part of her being. My eyes still fill with tears when I think about the journey we have walked together — the journey we keep walking together. We might be on separate paths, but in the example of her life, I found hope. And for that, I will always be thankful.
Life is beautiful. Never stop fighting.
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