Chronic illness. It’s not something one usually thinks about until it affects them personally. I know I didn’t. When I heard of someone I knew dealing with a loved one who was sick, I always felt sympathy. But it was always something that I took to heart, then often put out of my mind, merely because of the unpleasantness of the thought. But then it happened; someone I knew and loved became chronically ill. Someone I knew had their life turned upside down, and in turn, mine was flipped as well. The disease is Chronic Lyme. That someone is my fifteen-year-old sister.
It was April of 2012 when my younger sister began complaining of relentless headaches. The headaches turned into such severe neck and back pain, that she could hardly turn her head. My parents took her to countless doctors, none of whom could give us a concrete answer. She was on insanely strong medications, then off all medications. She tried homeopathic solutions, and all sorts of at-home remedies, but to no avail. It wasn’t until almost a year later that we finally had an answer: Chronic Lyme Disease.
Although we finally have a diagnosis, there is still no concrete cure to Lyme. While her doctors are great about working to customize her treatment plan, there’s never any telling if one medicine or remedy will work over another. Some days, she feels okay. She can get out of bed; she can laugh a little and enjoy herself. Others, she can’t get out of bed, wash her hair, or get dressed on her own. While my family and I try to do the best we can to soothe her pain and keep a smile on her face, keeping up our own morale has proven to be a challenge in itself.
As a big sister, the fact that I can’t always take away my sister’s pain is devastating. While I imagine it’s much more difficult for my parents, I feel guilt on a daily basis because I wake up pain-free, while my teenage sister struggles to make it through a day of school. But over the past year and a half, I have been keeping track of the things that my family and I do to better our lives with Lyme. Whether it’s having a movie day, finding something yummy to make on her gluten-and-sugar-free diet( yes, it’s possible), or taking a little trip when she’s up to it, my family has come up with many creative, yet feasible ways to fight back against the Lyme and put a smile on all of our faces.
While the one suffering from chronic illness obviously faces the brunt of the devastation, the loved ones struggle right along with them. I want to share the ways my family and I smile through the tears and pain, all the while reminding each other that although some days it doesn’t feel like it, together, we are stronger than any chronic illness.