Sympathy: What Do You Think?

How many of you received sympathy cards after your diagnosis?

When I received one in the mail last week I thought it was kind of odd. Then I thought back to my diagnosis with T1 and I received sympathy cards then too.

You send sympathy cards typically when you lose someone, a pet or maybe even a job. But does a Crohn’s or T1 diagnosis constitute a loss? What are you losing? Freedom: your ability to do whatever you want whenever you want without thinking ahead or carrying supplies/meds with you. Spontaneity: you can’t just pick up and leave, you need to make sure you have enough supplies for enough days and plan where the closest medical facility may be, etc. Normality: like it or not you now have a constant companion, you carry juice boxes or glucose tabs, you take a bag/purse wherever you go, you know the location of ALL the available restrooms, there are times when you just can’t, you’re not less of a person but you are different. Money: your bank account will have new constant withdrawals, it’s no longer housing, food, and cars, it also includes medication/supplies. Regardless of the amount in your account before chronic illness, it will be less afterwards. Normal vocabulary: words have a whole new meaning – pen, high, low, steroids, etc. These words can cause you to get lost in conversation because you’re not hearing it right.

So, I suppose chronic illness can be sympathy card worthy. It’s nice to know people care. But it also makes you realize you’ve lost something and that people could really feel badly for you. Some of the people I lived with in Idaho have mentioned how bad they feel or how they don’t know how I do it. A lot of people say sorry. It’s not their fault I have the health problems I do. But I can’t really give a better answer option either. When people say it sucks, I agree with them.

Sometimes I do feel the losses that come with chronic illness. Sometimes I feel the burden.

The last several months have been tough for me. And I’ve been feeling these and other losses much more than the gains.

And while most of my posts have been about these losses, I know there are gains and gifts that come with chronic illness. I believe we are much more passionate, have a tenacity that can’t be matched, are more willing to embrace life’s little moments and gifts, can celebrate the little victories, firmly believe in the idea of community and show a strength and perseverance that is well beyond the norm. It’s not to say that “normal” or “healthy” people don’t have these traits. I know passionate, strong, tenacious, life loving and community focused people who don’t have a chronic illness. But I feel like most people who deal with a disease or condition day in and day out have no choice but to develop these characteristics.

I can’t really say I disapprove or approve of giving a sympathy card to someone. I’m a card/stationary addict, so I appreciate any letter or card. Sympathy cards seem more fitting than a get well card. It’s not like I have the flu or am going to get better anytime soon. The only way I’ll be “healthy” is if I no longer have my bowels and I’m dead. Diabetes is cureless as is Crohn’s. I know a woman who had a pancreas transplant and no longer has T1, but those are pretty rare. So I guess if I got sick enough and they removed my small bowel I could be disease free.

What do you think about sympathy cards? Would you send one to a newbie?

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About smashleeca

I am a lot of things...a Californian, a T1 diabetic, a Crohn's pt, a daughter, friend, former athlete, forever student, blogger, worker, and most of all life-embracer. That sounds corny...but I'll leave it. I'm just your average 24 y/o girl with a story to tell. View all posts by smashleeca

One response to “Sympathy: What Do You Think?

  • Lorraine

    Um, no, I would not.

    Although I’m sure the intentions were good, a sympathy card to me is associated with death. I think a “thinking of you” or a non-specific card with a personal note would be much more appropriate in this situation.

    Nevertheless, it was nice for the person to take the time to do something. Often people are so uncertain about what to do, they do nothing. Something, I think, is better than nothing. I hope it helped to know that this person was thinking of you.

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