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How We Live Makes All of the Difference


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fear with chronic illness | Banner for "No Tears for Sarcoidosis" by Charlton Harris

The past few months have been challenging for me. I’ve had several doctor appointments that seemed more serious than usual, and I lost three family members who passed away.

To put a number on things, I was close to one of those family members, very cool with another, and very, very close to the third, my cousin Pat, whom I called “Paddy” or “Granny Shark.”

Growing up, insults were our way of bonding, because they always turned into laughter. Paddy and I kept our families amused when everyone was together. I would start with the insults, and then she would jump in with the next ones. It was comedic timing at its best, inspired by our love for Mad Magazine, its cartoonist Don Martin, and his Fonebone characters.

All of this started in the mid-1970s, so our clowning together has been going on for over 40 years. Paddy was the one who convinced me to go to college with her, and we had many mutual friends who knew we were cousins.

Of course, life gets in the way, and we lost track of each other for a few years. But as the saying goes, if you ever want an impromptu family reunion, wait for the next funeral. And that’s what happened at the funeral of one of our aunts.

Paddy’s sister lives near me, so we could’ve easily caught up with each other before. Like I said, life gets in the way. When you’re busy working, raising a family, and worrying about bills, schools, and everything else related to “adulting,” the simple things seem to get lost in the quagmire of life.

But sure enough, we reconnected at the funeral. When we saw each other, we couldn’t help but display big smiles on our faces. It was like we’d never lost any time apart, and after that, we didn’t. Over the next few conversations, we caught up, and she told me she was battling breast cancer. I told her about my two spontaneous pneumothoraces. We were both shocked at how suddenly life had interrupted our plans.

Catching up entailed sharing daily laughs. We talked or texted every day, including when we were both hospitalized at different times. The last few months became more difficult for her because the cancer had returned. Although she was going through her battles, she never stopped laughing. We insulted each other and laughed until the tears flowed.

About a week and a half ago, her condition worsened and she had to be hospitalized again. One of the last text messages I received from her was “Hey ratface, what are you up to?” She told me she was back in rehab trying to build her physical strength again. We didn’t talk much that time. Her husband was holding the phone for her, and I could tell her meds had her tired. But she kept laughing, as did I.

Two days later, her husband called to tell me she had passed. It was a blow I wasn’t expecting. I thought about the good times and all the laughs we shared over the years. It was difficult for me to process at first, but I could hear her hurling insults, followed by that infectious laugh. The thought made me smile like a kid on Christmas.

Sarcoidosis has a way of making us compromise in life. But it also makes us realize that we can make a difference in people’s lives, too. So when you’re feeling at your lowest point in life, remember that there is always someone who appreciates you — in sickness and in health.


Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.

The post How We Live Makes All of the Difference appeared first on Sarcoidosis News.

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