This I Believe

Christina - Tinley Park, Illinois
Entered on April 27, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
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I believe that illness is strength. When I was 10, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, which is basically like a permanent ulcer in my large intestine. With the disease comes constant stomachaches, many trips to the doctor, and even an occasional stay in the hospital. Having this disease throughout my entire life as I was growing up could have brought me down. But instead of giving in to the illness, I became a stronger person, and I am able to overcome the obstacles it presents in my life.

Growing up with and living with a serious illness has given me a great outlook on life. When I was in 7th grade, and still did not have my illness under control, I had to stay in the hospital for about a week. I had an IV in my arm the whole time, and to make it worse, every time the nurse changed the needle, for some reason he would mess up and pop the vein in my hand, and my whole hand would swell up and start gushing blood. This was a scary time for me, being so young and not fully understanding how severe the problem was. I could not wait to get out of the hospital. And as soon as I did get out of that hospital room, I had a new outlook on life. I felt so loved because so many people came to visit me each day in the hospital. My mom slept with me every night, making a stiff armchair her bed for a week. It really made me realize how important my family is to me, and how much they care about me. The entire experience of living with this disease has taught me never to take my family for granted, and I am thankful for the love that they show me each and every day.

I have not been hospitalized since that day in seventh grade, which is something most people can say as well. But for me, living with colitis and staying out of the hospital is a huge deal. I am so strong because I realize that I can fight this disease, and with a lot of help, I am winning. I am thankful every day that I found medicine and doctors that can help me, rather than being angry that I have a disease. I feel lucky to be able to live a normal life with an illness. I can walk, I can run, I can play a 90 minute game of soccer without giving up. I can be away from home at college, and still have enough health to study and make the Dean’s List. To be labeled with an incurable disease and still do all of these things has given me a great sense of accomplishment and in that way has made me stronger.

My illness has also given me strength in realizing when it is ok to fail. I have learned throughout my life that it is ok to feel tired sometimes, and that there are going to be days when I feel sick and have to miss out on certain things. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol isn’t exactly good for a stomach ulcer, so there are a lot of times when I have to miss out on the fun that my friends are having when they go out and party. But I feel good about myself because I know when I need to have some time to myself in order to stay healthy. Rather than being discouraged that I cannot do everything, I realize I need to keep my body healthy, and I feel good about myself when I do. I feel strong knowing that I can have the will to make healthy decisions. In an incurable illness, something that weakens the body, I have found strength.