Disease, Healthcare

Putting the “chronic” in illness

I have two definitions for all of you to consider.

Acute illness: any illness characterized by signs and symptoms of rapid onset and short duration. It may be severe and impair normal functioning.

Chronic condition: persistent or otherwise long-lasting in its effects or a disease that comes with time. The term chronic is often applied if the course of the disease lasts for more than three months.

My suspicion is pretty high that if you’re reading this blog, it is because “chronic” caught your eye and you more than likely also have a chronic condition. Millions of us do. In fact, at least 1 in 3 of us have at least one. So we know the medical definition. But, what does a chronic condition or illness ACTUALLY mean to you and me?

Let’s go a step farther back. Take a look at chronic in a different context, completely separate from anything related to illness. Many of us can be considered chronic fans of sports, music, art, or gardening for example. Technically anything that we hold a continued interest in is considered chronic. But, instead of calling it that, we refer to it as a hobby.

Our hobbies still require work to improve. We all start as novices and work our way up the ladder. We learn more about them, we work on our techniques, and always try to do better than the last time.

Think of when you were diagnosed with a chronic illness. Initially, there was probably a feeling of not knowing much. It probably was overwhelming. Sometimes it felt like you were being smothered by it. Then there was a learning period about the disease, medications, and management. You probably had to adapt something in your life so that the illness could be controlled easier.

Over time, you got used to the fact that medications, lifestyle modifications and doctor appointments are now a part of your routine. Time continues to march forward and you do too.

Just because an illness is chronic, doesn’t mean that it defines the person that you have always been. You have hobbies, family, friends and goals. All of those are integrated with illnesses. Sometimes we have to pause or slow down because of what our illnesses are doing to our bodies, but you are still YOU.

Don’t let an illness define the person. Instead, you need to define the illness. I have multiple chronic diseases. But, I’m also a chronic pet lover, quilter/sewer, reader and nurse. Chronic has multiple roles in my life.

Sometimes all it takes is changing the way we look at something to make it seem more manageable and not quite so overwhelming. What does chronic mean to you?


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