Thursday, March 6, 2008

DCMM: Is a Condition an Illness?

I've been wracking my brain as to what to write concerning the topic of coping with illness. I've definitely had extended family who have had to cope with them, but (knock on wood) we have been lucky enough to not have to contend with serious illnesses in my immediate family.

I mentally cataloged my family, and most of us have "conditions," none of which I would define as an illness, but which are things that require coping nonetheless.  Coping—and semi-regular trips to the pharmacy.

My husband has suffered from scoliosis since he was a child. As far as I know, he's never been treated for it, but I know that it causes him discomfort. Chronic discomfort.

If he sleeps on the wrong surface, if he doesn't stretch enough, if he's just having a bad day—all of these things can cause him extreme pain. Most days he's okay, but he's definitely had to find ways to cope with it.

My son Jack is autistic. I'm sure some would consider autism to be an illness, but I consider it to be just part of his personality, his being.

More than anyone in my family, Jack is going to have to learn to cope with his condition. He, only four years old now, will have to learn skills and strategies that he can use to successfully navigate a mostly non-autistic world. This will be a life-long thing for him.

My two-year-old, Quinn, was flagged as a fetus as potentially having nephrosis, which affects the kidneys. After he was born, he had daily antibiotics for months. I was on a first-name basis with my pharmacist, because the medicine was liquid and had to be refilled every two weeks. After much testing, his kidneys were determined to be healthy. Illness avoided. Hallelujah.

His main condition now is constipation. And oh boy have we been coping with this condition. Daily Miralax, a diet high in fiber, suppositories on occasion, and the infrequent trip to the hospital have all been coping strategies we've used for his condition.

My six-year-old suffers from seasonal allergies. Not too big a deal. We just give him some Claritin during the spring. He seems to have gotten a light dose of "condition."

I have a couple conditions (including sensory issues and some depression and anxiety), but the most outwardly obvious of them seems to be psoriasis. Psoriasis is a skin condition that involves hard, scaly patches on skin. Some people have it worse than others, and my condition is not too severe, but it does keep me from wearing shorts during the summer, and makes me think twice about short sleeved shirts that will showcase my scaly elbows.

I cope by using various topical medications, most of which I am too lazy to apply on a regular basis. For me, aside from a little pain the psoriasis patches give me, most of my coping skills regarding this stem from self-esteem issues. It's not fun to look like leprosy has invaded parts of your body.

So, no, none of these qualify as illnesses in my opinion. But they are all health issues that require coping skills.

Fortunately, none of these conditions threaten my family or its well-being. They are all things we can deal with, things we can cope with. Some of them I wish we didn't have to cope with, but we do. And we will continue to do so.

And we will hope that "conditions" are the biggest challenges we face. We will hope that illness won't knock on our door, that our family history of heart disease, severe depression, and cancer don't find us.

Original DC Metro Moms Blog post.

You can read more about Jean and her family's conditions, and how they cope, at Stimeyland.

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