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Thursday January 3rd 2019


Chronic Snarkopolist: Finding Beauty In Chronic Illness… The Snarkopolist Way

Post Published: 14 July 2010
Category: chronic autoimmune conditions column, Chronic Snarkopolist, Column
This post currently has 29 responses. Leave a comment

Hello my loves!

Once when I was an inpatient at a brand name hospital for an extended period of time I met many “famous” doctors. None of them got to know me.  I was a patient with a number and a private bed.

Meanwhile – a beautiful woman who was a housekeeping lady came by every day and cleaned my room.  I met Inga’s face every day and looked her in the eyes – because I did not find her career shameful.  I found her a human with a job.  And every human has story.  I love stories. Stories heal us and make us whole. She always smiled at me and I at her.

Finally one day Inga set her garbage pail down and said, “This is not who I really am. In my old country I am more important.”

And I said, “This is not who I am either.  In my classroom I am more important as well.”

We both looked at each other and understood.   In all of life – we are both MORE and LESS than everything around us.  And it takes EACH OTHER to build each other up and give that nudge of recognition.  Through each other we stop time and surrender ourselves – listening and telling our stories – healing the increasing woundedness of life.  We heal each other simply by being TRULY PRESENT in each other’s lives.

It is simple.  We either RECOGNIZE each other or we REFUSE each other.  By recognizing your beauty or your greatness of spirit I give you untold gifts. By refusing your ability to grow or change or be different – I obliterate you.  I render you NOTHING.

Every lunch hour Inga came and ate her lunch with me.  She taught me her native languages.  She never had to talk about what it felt like to be considered “unworthy” or “in a less than noble profession.”  Nurses walked past her “housecleaning” colored hospital-ware without acknowledging her.  Sometimes one might look at her sharply as though she might somehow sully or disturb me.  And yet, they would walk right past me with much the same attitude unless they needed to check my “vitals” or give me medications.

Doctors made their rounds but at this particular hospital I was not worth teaching anyone anything I suppose because the medical students looked bored and restless.  Unless my temperature went up or my dialysis did not go well or my eeg’s came back with less than positive information or some blood work showed up badly, I was someone who did not matter. To everyone but my then husband and the hospital housekeeper – I was an invisible person with just test results to show as an identity.  On her days off I missed Inga terribly and the days would go by even more slowly than usual.

I was hooked to many monitors and equipment and Inga never made that an issue. I learned her languages as fast as I could so she would see that I made an effort – she mattered.  I know she was an attorney in her old country and I heard about the painful loss of her husband and her own struggle with illness.  Garbage duty did not make her less than important to me.  Garbage duty made her MORE valuable to me because she was humbling herself in order to have a life somewhere safer than her old country.  I wanted her to see my respect for her.  I wanted her to see and be seen.  We both reacted to each other like magnets.  She respected me as more than my test results.  She gave me her time – she SAW me and made me VISIBLE. She HEALED ME.  I am still more in my heart because of her.

I’m struggling right now to make sense of being sick. Some days it goes like that. This week has been like that even more. The people I love most in all the world including my father are terribly ill.  Even my beloved doggie is now sick.  And I’m left with my beautiful chronically ill friends to bolster me and I them. We are each other’s rocks.

I look around and wonder- why is it that I love these people and yet THEIR being sick never shakes me half so much as my own daddy?  Why does my own health bother me but not so much as my dog?  Why?

I can make no sense of it.  Perhaps being sick is something we have grown numb or resigned to?

And the last few days I’ve been feeling less lively and less chipper and so I am re-grouping and realizing that there are gifts to be found in my illness.  THERE ARE GIFTS in this- just as there are gifts in being alone in a hospital when a wonderful housekeeper renders me VISIBLE and ALIVE.  I have forgotten how many gifts I have been given.  When we are blind to our own joys they cannot be counted. And so I wanted to write about it.

When we feel good it is easy to laugh.  When we feel unwell it is easy to describe it-wallow in it miserably even.  But some days I like to go deep inside and remember how completely and profoundly my life has changed.  And with these changes I have opened myself to the kindness of people.

My very first experience in this discovery was with my G/I doctor.  My life was shattering, I felt myself being sucked into the earth, like quicksand. And I said, “Please hold my hand” to a nearby nurse, just as I was about to go under for anesthesia.  And all the nurses were busy and my G/I doctor looked over and said, “I will hold your hand.” And in so doing I felt a short but comforting feeling that if a doctor who was busy could be arsed to comfort a hysterical patient then perhaps there was love left in the world.

Actually- I am making words in retrospect.  What happened for me was that a blanket of love and comfort spread over me – and I felt that the divorce would be ok and that I would be ok and that all my health issues would be handled.  When I awoke I felt comforted still and wrapped in a blanket of love and humanity.  I still go to this doctor because I see her a doctor who works from her heart.  And I carry that idea that “things will be ok” with me all the time. She healed me just a little bit that day.  Sometimes there is more to health and wholeness than a good blood test.

I cannot even begin to describe all the subsequent ways people have been kind to me- but I know that I myself CANNOT be a good or kind person without opening myself to the kindness of others.  And in my deepest vulnerabilities of being sick – I am my most open to receiving the love and generosity and acceptance of OTHER PEOPLE.  This is basic humanity at work.

No no – I do not WISH to LEARN humanity this way through illness and medical complications and the kindness of strangers.  I prefer to just know it – get it – like I got through college – wiz bang.  “Where are my pluses?” “Where are my bonus points?”  I am at my core a scholar… and yet being a scholar never made me truly WISE.  It simply made me a hoarder of KNOWLEDGE. But you cannot apply knowledge into GENUINE HUMAN CONNECTION and therein lie the gifts of being ill, or of being a caretaker, and of loss, of grief, and of recovering our strength.

Yet – I will say this – as I open more to accepting other people I accept myself.  A woman who I studied eastern healing with once said to me, “When will Melissa be enough for herself?” I never understood her words. I was driven.  I have always been driven.  I got my first faculty appointment at a large southeastern university in the late 90’s. It was not enough.  I wanted another graduate degree and I wanted more publications and more of everything that I thought MADE ME MELISSA.

And one day – after I was sick – I could no longer compete at that top level – and I had to STOP. Then, slowly – through PEOPLE and not through my own ACTIONS my life had more meaning. I stopped striving for doing more and started actually LISTENING to other people’s stories.  I HEARD people.  I FEEL HEALED by their triumphs and fears and joys.  I stopped YEARNING and STRIVING to be more and started allowing myself to feel what I feel right now.

I’m telling you this because THIS is exactly what is in my heart RIGHT THIS MOMENT. Some days it is sad and other days it is preposterous.  And right now I seek MEANING in my own illness. I seek MEANING that I matter.

We all do – we all matter. Our very existence is proof of our power.  Yet – I know that without my ability to stop and CARE ABOUT YOU I can never accept your love either.  I am endlessly fascinated how life is so balanced, truly balanced.

How do we find our specialness? How do we find our beauty and our genuine ability to be kind and love? Even if we suffer and hurt – how do we reach out and give compassion to others in a way that is REJUVINATING and positive (rather than draining) to our selves?

Right now I’m finding a balance in this. I use the telephone and online arenas to support my chronically ill friends. I have healthy friends too – and we talk and love each other.  We give and receive love.  We grieve our losses and express our pain and fear.  And sometimes we take turns crying to each other.  None of this is draining and all of this is life affirming to me!

Sometimes a text is enough.  “I love you so much – you have made my life better just by knowing you.”  That’s a pretty bolstering statement. It doesn’t break my thumbs to write it.  And yet there is TRUTH in it for the woman to whom I write it.

Who would think even two years ago that I would seek MEANING in my illness?! Yet that is exactly what I am doing.  I find meaning in the companionship of a beautiful hospital housekeeper who gave me so much of her generous spirit and her memories and time. I find meaning in my heart that bubbles over with love and pride at my friends who go to college even through the fatigue and pain of their illnesses.  I am in awe of my friends who parent their children through illnesses and who stand by their spouses when their whole worlds are crumbling in pain. Their courage and spirits are amazing to me.

For every man and woman who takes their illness into their body and owns it as a part of their life – and carries it as part of them – giving more of their love to others – refusing to blame or judge others for it – those people are my heroes. Those people give my life MEANING. Doctors who are kind and compassionate; People who create outlets for support and healing; Sick people who reach out with love and compassion to the newly diagnosed—all of these people give my life meaning.

Because if these people exist – it shows that COMPASSION still exists in the world.  Like a pinball game – this compassion bounces back and forth – saving us one at a time  – from ourselves, from self-pity, from bitterness and despair. It gives my life MEANING because I can do this too. I can LOVE AND BE LOVED!  It makes me matter.  It gives me HOPE!  And right now I need hope.

What about you?  What do you need in your life?  What speaks to you?  What gives you meaning?  What has illness come to mean to you?  What doctors have reached into your hearts and stopped time for you? What people have rendered you speechless by their acts of courage and bravery?  How has your illness changed your way of thinking and living life?  Do you speak up more?  Do you calm down faster?  Do you think of yourself as SPECIAL?  Do you say so?

Tell me – on this day when I am seeking MEANING in my own and others struggle and illness – what meanings have YOU found? I’m interested. I want your stories, your truths.  How has your life changed?  Are you happier?  Are you a better person now?  Are you more familiar with your truths? I’m so interested in hearing more from you.

I’ll be seeing you next week! Same time same place! Kisses!

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29 Responses to “Chronic Snarkopolist: Finding Beauty In Chronic Illness… The Snarkopolist Way

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by katieschwartz. katieschwartz said: "Chronic Snarkopolist: Finding Beauty In Chronic Illness… The Snarkopolist Way" http://bit.ly/9B4iNZ […]

  2. Monica says:

    Melissa, (*sniff* *tears* *sobs*)

    Your story penetrated me like a lightning bolt slashing through the thunderous sadness inside of me. You made me think how has my illness changed me? I know I am no longer the same person anymore. I now walk around wondering what meaning does my life have?

    Then I read writings like yours and feel so alive and real. It is full of Honesty. Compassion. Special. Love.

    Thank you for reminding me what is important.

    ☮ ♥

  3. rhi says:

    Probably one of the most amazing things I’ve read in a long, LONG time. I don’t know you but I want to hug you and Inga, and the GI doc. Thank you so very much for sharing yourself here. I appreciate it, and you are in my thoughts. I wish you the very best.

  4. Lolly says:

    Melly Mel all I can say is I got a whole lot of Love to give, I wish I could love myself as much, I don’t like the Person I have become.

    Your words touched me deeply and i wish I could just hug you and say you are Loved by me and everyone. You go through so much yourself yet you have so much time to give to others I feel just like me it’s a way of taking the heat of our own problems our own health that we live with daily I so admire you.

    I would much rather help a sick neighbour or friend than help myself. The only time I truly talk about it is when I am here, or with good friends but I try not to let it rule my life cus I don’t want it to take me down.

    I hope your dad health improves and that of your families, it’s good that you have friends that don’t have health issues too.

    With Much Love and compassion


  5. Robyn says:

    Fantastic post. Real truth, real meaning, real questions. I love it.

    I’m sorry about your dog. I see many patients who are brought in by a clearly sick caregiver/owner. I have one client who apologizes profusely when she has to reschedule due to her daughter’s (tragic) illness, like she feels ashamed it should trump her dog’s chronic illness! Let me know if I can help with your dog in any way, since that’s what I do! I can help!

    As the first generation of immigrant parents, I know that story well too. My grandmother came to the US with my mother (who was a preteen), neither of them speaking the language. My grandmother was very smart, and held a high position prior to moving here, where she was universally regarded as stupid. But I did learn something from her/that–I would RATHER that someone assume I am stupid, as they have lower expectations, and then you can surprise them with your knowledge later (which always makes them feel stupid!).

  6. Amanda says:

    Thank you for this wonderful, heartfelt article. It breaks my heart to read, to know you go through so much and more is coming at you. I wish you strength to face it all.


  7. Donna says:


    I love, love, love this! I’m sorry to hear things are not so great right now and hope that will improve soon for you and those you love.

    You asked so I will tell. For years I defined myself through my work (Human Resources) and always took joy in helping people. I think everyone has value, regardless of what they do. I have the best memories of my conversations with a janitor that worked nights, he was one of the smartest men I have ever met. He was a janitor because he had a sick wife to take care of and needed health insurance. Plenty of other people have touched my life and they were not always the ones you thought would. I have had so many pleasant suprises when it comes to people. I always chose to look at my role in managing others as a way to empower them as individuals and help them to be proud of themselves first and foremost. Everyone brings something to the table and everyone deserves acknowledgement.

    After having my son, I stopped working and took great pride in being a mom and placed all of me into him. When he was 5 I was diagnosed with follicular thyroid cancer and that changed everything once again. I focused on surviving and my child and ignored just about everything else. Sad, but true. I just chose not to put myself out there. I had no desire. I still did things relating to my son and his school and activities. I was still a good friend and made people smile and enjoyed being around children but that part of me that wanted to help others had disappeared. I did not know why, I just was content being blah if that makes any sense. I was sick often, could not figure out what was going on and attributed my thyroid (or lack therof) to none of my symptoms.

    Fast forward almost 4 years and I am putting myself out there again. I see the value in people again. I am on a mission to make a difference, to help others get to a better place and not waste so much time not understanding this disease.

    Each and every person who has ever written anything here on DT has helped me to get the care I needed and it has touched me in a very personal way. I feel this immense desire within myself to advocate, not only myself but for anyone who is living this AND for those who may be but don’t know it. I want to raise awareness and give back.

    So yes, I am different. I am not the same. I have this illness to contend with so I am not always as happy as I would like BUT I place as much value in myself now as I always did others and that is not a bad thing. I believe I will be happier when I feel that I have made an impact. I’m not big on trying to figure out why this happened to me but I’m very in tune to my beliefs that is was for the common good. That is my choice in all of this. I did not choose to get cancer but I can choose to see some good in it.

    We have choices, each and everyone of us. Some days are harder than others. Things will never be the same but maybe they can be better? Maybe we can grow from this.

    Thank you Melissa. You are valued, you are awesome and you are making a difference. You rock! Thank you again for all you do!


  8. Melissa, this is so beautiful. Thank you for writing it. I love that you can find meaning in illness. Some days, I find it nearly impossible. Most days, though, I can embrace and appreciate the change that cancer has brought into my life.

    The purest lesson cancer has taught me: love. That might sound so lame, but it’s so true. Love is not telling your friend she’s in your thoughts and then not checking in with her for months. Love is being present, even if it’s with a text message like you said. Cancer has taught me to value true friendship. And while I would give back cancer, I would not give back the lessons.

    Thanks for sharing this with us.


  9. Bernadette says:

    Thank you for this. I am struggling with this everyday right now. I feel so stuck. I feel all I am right now IS my illness. I feel bitter for all that it has taken away, bitter against everyone who doesn’t get it or dismisses me and bitter that I am here right now in my life.
    I would like a day that isn’t filled with what I eat, how I feel, did I take all my meds & supplements. A day without symptoms.
    I’d like to find me again..or maybe for the first time, but am having difficulty trying to sort this all out. Most of the time I feel like an outsider to the “regular” population. I don’t eat the same, feel the same or think the same anymore. The feeling of being very alone is overpowering at times.
    It’s hard at times to find value in myself or meaning in my life…to see the good things that I am blessed with. To much of my attention is on just getting thru the day…and my illness.
    Thanks for making me think about it…the good things…for reminding me to shift my focus!

  10. Maria Minno says:

    This is so true! I discovered this, also. So many blessings come with the terrible things that chronic illness brings.

    I discovered that I can often use the pain and depression to identify emotional, spiritual, and mental issues that I need to deal with.

    When I use the pain I’m experiencing to re-align or re-think or re-experience these issues through the pain, I find that I discover new things about myself and the world. I am able to make changes that I don’t think I’d ever be able to make without the illness. At the same time, through this process of re-aligning mentally, spiritually, and emotionally, my physical body also re-aligns, and healing progresses. It’s an amazing thing!

    I believe that there is so much that we all need to learn about our lives. We need to recognize the causes of our disease, the many forms that our disease manifests in, and the possibilities for healing.

    Our lessons as individuals may not save our selves, but we are living these mistakes in order for the next generations to learn from us. This is a time when we as human beings are intensely learning how to live on the Earth in a good way. We are being shown, through pain and illness, which things work and which things do not.

    It is very important what happens to each of us. When I was young I wanted to accomplish great things. Yet many times during this long illness, I have wished only to have a quality of life good enough to make it worthwhile to stay alive! I have been forced through illness to prioritize my life, and the results are enlightening and inspiring.

    I have learned so many things from being so sick. Do you ever think that if you could just share some of the things you have learned, it would make it all worthwhile?

    Blessings to you all!

  11. Sarah Downing says:

    This column really touched me, Melissa, particularly your friendship with the housekeeper at the hospital. This highlights how important it is to look at the person behind the job. I have never liked watching people judge people based on the job or qualifications they have. Germany is a country where a huge focus is placed on qualifications so that many people who are very capable and show a great deal of potential tend to miss out on certain good jobs because they don’t have the requisite letters behind their name. It may make you chuckle to hear that if someone here has two doctor titles, they actually include both of them in their name – in fact, they tend to include every title they have, which to my mind looks idiotic and arrogant – e.g. Prof. Dr. Dr. People who judge people purely based on their titles or their jobs are often missing out, I feel.

    I wrote a column on a similar subject (Butterflies and Phoenixes). My way of dealing with stuff is to search for the positives that the negatives have brought me. Last weekend, some sick individual let the air out of my bike’s back tyre and stole the air valve. Of course, I was pissed off and frustrated, but ultimately we ended up doing something we wouldn’t have done otherwise, which included going to a French market in the old town and finding some digitally remastered records which had been made into CDs of 20s/30s and 40s music, which are generally VERY hard to find. I was so happy to get hold of them as ever since I was a little girl I have loved retro music. We used to dance around to my granddad’s large collection of records.

    What I am saying is that I use this approach with everything in my life and that also includes thyroid disease. I have always loved to write, but now I feel as if it has more of a purpose as I am able to help others with my words and share my research with them. Thyroid disease has also been an incredibly cathartic experience for me that has enabled me to process some of the pain from my past. I no longer beat myself up half as much about the weight gain because I have come to appreciate that I look good even if I am now a Size 12 instead of a Size 6. I can write about stuff and feel like it is a healing process, too. Thanks to thyroid disease, I now know the benefits of regularly working out with a personal trainer – and they are so much more than just losing weight (which is also something I had to come to realise and will be writing about in a future column, where I plan to interview my trainer and her partner). Thanks to thyroid disease, I now know quite a bit about medicine and have developed a fascination with finding out more. I have been able to help random people, including people who aren’t even a part of Dear Thyroid. Recently, a translation customer and colleague asked if she could pass on my contact details to a colleague of hers whose daughter is suffering from Epstein-Barr virus. Because I had this up until recently, I know a lot about it and I also had some tips for getting rid of it. I was so happy to be able to help her, because I know how tough and how scary it is to get yet another new diagnosis. I do believe in karma too and that what goes around comes around. I think thyroid disease has made me even more empathic than I was before, although I always felt the need to help others – once you’ve been truly ill, it’s easier to identify, isn’t it?

    Your columns are inpsiring and from the heart, Melissa and so are you. I am very happy to know you and want you to let me know if there is ever anything I can do for you.



  12. faeanna says:

    As a future physician, I’m really saddened to hear about how dismissed you were in the hospital. Thank you for the reminder of the importance of being an Inga.

    It’s true–illness isn’t the way that any of us want to discover our own humanity. I’m becoming a physician because I wanted to help people through this, not be a patient myself. However, I think that in the future when I look back on this…I wouldn’t change it. I’ve grown a lot by being ill myself.

  13. Laurie says:

    Hi – I found you through from ChemoBabe on FB, and it is a page I will certainly share. Thank you for this beautifully eloquent and introspective post. Your opening this experience to the world is what helps to carry others more safely through their journey. Sending loving waves of healing your way, Laurie.

  14. Melissa Travis says:

    Dearest Monica,
    Thank you for your lovely message!

    It is TRUE– life gives us these strange ways to wake up to what is important doesn’t it… we are always learning ways to heal and change and grow. We are all learning every day what meaning our life has. I think we need to assess this EVERY DAY. Or maybe we just need to TRUST that it has meaning and just GO LIVE?

    Keep writing in and tell your stories! Help us all heal. I am so so glad to hear from you!!!

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  15. Melissa Travis says:

    My dear Rhi,

    Thank you so much for writing in! I would LOVE to hear more of your story here. Thank you for the compliment and thank you for the love.

    Keep writing in – keep sharing yourself – keep being part of our healing processes! We are all in this together. I feel it deeply.

    So much healing love!

  16. Melissa Travis says:

    Oh my Lolly-Lol!

    In reading your words my heart is so big for you — I TRULY LOVE AND LIKE AND ADORE AND AM TOTALLY SMITTEN by the person you have become!!! I only hope that you can learn to see yourself through MY EYES. Perhaps we can learn to look through each others eyes at each other a few moments each day? I think maybe? Because sometimes I feel the same way about myself. Somedays I think — how on earth are people giving me notes of thanks — how on earth are people giving me gifts etc… and I feel so profoundly DONE WITH IT ALL.

    And other times I feel so up and READY TO TAKE IT ON. See– I guess it is a process. And that is why we have each other – to remind each other that we are valuable and worth it and PROFOUNDLY DEEPLY IMPORTANT TO EACH OTHER!!!

    Because I admire you — and your strength and YOUR courage and YOUR humor!!! Truly I do. And I know that you will try not to hear me — b/c for YEARS I never took or heard a compliment either!! I know the tricks you pull because i have pulled them ALL MYSELF!! See! I’m so happy to have met you too!!

    My father and I are both so massively improved. It is like night and day. Thank you so much for your kind thoughts.

    I am sending you giant monkey hugs of love and barrels of laughs and good feelings and snogs. You are always in my heart. Looking at you is like looking at myself and laughing at our ridiculous beauty and unwillingness to believe we are truly beautiful.


  17. Melissa Travis says:

    Hello Dear Robyn,

    My doggie is not so sick as feared! Instead of bladder cancer – Dr. Matt found only old lady incontinence- so some pills are helping with it!! It is truly a joyous time in our house!!! We needed less cancer and MORE “normal aging stuff” around here.

    And you are right – for so long I have felt “guilty” for making my kids sick. Even right this my eyes are tearing up. I know that being sick is stressful and I have written about it before… I love my kids – and I truly do NOT believe any other owner would give them HALF as much love and attention as I could – so I would never get rid of them. Yet I often hurt in my heart that they must feel the stress of my own sicknesses and sometimes the “cures” to my illnesses. It hurts me deeply. Thank you for understanding it. And yes — I will take you up on your offers to help for advice!! Most of it is just “aging stuff” as I have 2 old ladies (and one younger kitty).

    It is profound what we have learned off our immigrant parents and grandparents. I am glad you have shared this with me. I think it has given us more strength and better abilities in our lives. I am glad I have learned to judge people LESS about their station in life and more about their character and the fabric they have woven into their lives.

    I adore you Robyn. Thank you so much for your kindnesses and your compassion. Your words and your pointers and your comments are always so perfectly placed. Thank you for continuing to read and comment as well. It is always humbling for me to know that what I say matters. And I want to add that what you say matters as well!! I always love to hear what you have in mind!!

    much love!

  18. Melissa Travis says:

    My dear Amanda,

    thank you for writing in and for your beautiful compliments!!! I always love to hear from you!! It is so moving to me because you are on the brink of a new illness and we ALL remember those times – when we were first starting out in the world of “what is this — oh my -what is going on with my body– what can it be??” And you are on the brink of forming a new relationship with a new doctor — and that is scary stuff too — it REALLY IS!!

    BUT– you have forgotten to tell me about your appointment!!! Please tell me!! I truly want to know!!! I really do!

    My heart is full of your compassion. I am so humbled – deeply humbled that people who do not know me in person can have so much compassion for me and my life. It makes my throat stick. And so thank YOU for taking the time to tell me. It is a balm to me. And – for what it is worth – I am feel so much better today- that the heaviness of the writing this is lifted… as much by the beautiful comments as any other healing balm.

    Our strength is joined together. We are all in this together. This is OUR healing community! Our voices share our losses and our joys. Our words tell our stories. And there is HEALING in sharing. Thank you for taking part in my own healing. And please always tell your story– even if it is still in process and still progressing… even if it is still “unknown.” There are many “unknowns” in medicine and health… and THOSE are scary and annoying and frustrating. And we are here to hold you through it. Truly we are.

    much love!

  19. Melissa Travis says:

    Hello beautiful Donna,

    Thank you SO SO MUCH for sharing your beautiful story. For writing in and giving me such beautiful compliments!!

    I am so glad that you SAW a janitor and that his work was one of LOVE and not one of “his identity.” He deserved to have you in his life. And I am SO SORRY that your life took on a fallow period where you were tired and exhausted due to thyca. It is ROUGHT STUFF. It is. It is HARD to go through that shit.

    Meanwhile– I am SO SO GLAD for you that you are coming through it now. Maybe that fallow period gave you space to aerate your soil and re-find some precious Donna blooms that needed to REALLY grow big. I can actually see them now– and if you didn’t take that “down time” you might have been so busy pestering the blooms you would have never taken the time to TRULY SEE YOURSELF IN BLOOM NOW.

    DT has been a healing place for me too. It has changed my life as well. Everyone I meet here and everyone who writes in heals me. Stories heal. This is its purpose. It is working!

    And YES! I know what you mean about not being “happy” but being in the place where you are and accepting your place and making a difference. Right now I am working on finding “real life joy” even if in that moment there is not “happiness.”

    Thank you Donna – for writing in. And know that I truly believe that we are all here for a purpose. That we all make a difference. That ultimately we are here to help and heal each other. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story with me!!

    so much love!

  20. Melissa Travis says:

    Hello beautiful Joanna!

    Thank you so much for writing and for the beautiful compliments! You are so kind to me. Oh yes I know what you mean — some days it is IMPOSSIBLE INDEED to find meaning in anything but laying about and looking at the ceiling (and possibly soaking a pillow with the salted tears of my wallowing).

    I am astounded in your sentenced that the “purest lesson that cancer has taught me: (is) love”. That is a BIG THING! A truly big thing!! Yes — LOVE IS A BIG DEAL. And so are friendships. And the pain of loss and the pain of friendships that cannot withstand cancers and illnesses DO show how valuable real love is! And when you realize what love is real — YES YOU ARE RIGHT– BOOM– looking at my life now — sometimes when I have looked at my friends my eyes will water up and I will CRY when I tell them how much I appreciate them.

    I even cried to my GI doctor the other day- when I finally told her WHY I appreciated her… b/c we were leaving – and I wanted her to KNOW what action she did (a small one so that she had totally forgotten it – but I never did)… and I cried b/c of the LOVE of it!)

    Another profound thing you have said!! “And while I would give back cancer, I would not give back the lessons.” Yes… I would not be Melissa without these lessons. And yes — I do not think I would be half so loving, or trusting, or kind without it. And I HATE IT SOMETIMES that it is true… But being vulnerable and afraid and HAVING PEOPLE BE GOOD TO ME *REPEATEDLY* IS CRAZY AMAZING LESSONS.

    I adore you Joanna for sharing your beautiful lessons – learned so young and so painfully. I am SO SO SORRY that you are going through this when you should just be having fun at college. And yet I am SO PROUD OF YOU and the beautiful woman you are. You are. YOU ARE.

    Thank you so much for being in my life.

  21. Melissa Travis says:

    Hello dear Bernadette!
    Thank you so much for writing in! Thank you for the kind compliments!
    And yes yes yes to all the pain you are going through. And I hope hope hope you are writing it out. And please write in more. In DT and to me. And get it out! Stories are healing. Telling it it healing. Going through it is HARD. YOU ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF IT.

    That struggle is REAL SHIT. You are in the middle of REAL CRAP RIGHT NOW. AND YES — struggling with bitterness is VERY REAL. And I have had those struggles! I have!!! I know those struggles. I often feel my heart heat up and healthy people who do not understand illness (of myself or my friends)… and I often have to turn away when people say bullshit like, “you don’t look so sick) to people who are deathly ill.

    And when they say it to me – I have to swallow it and say, “YES – I TAKE THAT – I WILL BECOME AS HEALTHY AS I LOOK” inside my head… because they don’t know any better and because I don’t want ignorance in my life anyway… but I KNOW IT HURTS. And I’m sorry for it that you are going through it too. grrr. gah. rawrrr.

    ahhhh – yes. A day filled without paying attention to eating and meds and symptoms and supplements. I send you love. I no longer even dream like that – but I know when you are in the middle of those changes they crush you with frustration. They do! I am about to move to a new state – and so I will have to find new restaurants and stores that cater to Gluten Free – and I will be going through some of it again.. and I will want to shank everyone in the head who doesn’t even know what I’m talking about. I SEND YOU MY BIG GIANT HUGS AND SUPPORT.

    I get it. I feel you. rawerrrr. Feel it. It eases – it does. One thing I asked my AWESOME SAUCE pharmacist to do is make a “map of all my drugs and supplements” for me – and she did. So I know when to take all my drugs better. Even though I’m not a dummy – she did it BETTER than I ever could – and drew it out for me. So that I can add new drugs to it. But because I have to get up and take some, then 30 minutes later take more, and some with and without food — HER “map” was so brilliant even my doctors are in love with it. If you have a complex medication schedule you MIGHT appreciate this. Also- I have a monthly pill planner that has individual days on it and a timer that you can set to anytime you want… it was about $55 dollars – but SO WELL WORTH IT.

    Again – I do not know the extent of your supplements and medications – but if you are dealing with it that extremely– you might want to investigate it. E-mail me or comment again and I will be GLAD to sort through it with you – truly I will. I just don’t want to “over advise you” if you are merely frustrated but doing FINE with your current system. I can give you empathy in spades – or I can tell you what ultimately works brilliantly for me.

    One woman, Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. (in a book I’m reading now, “My Grandfather’s Blessings”) pointed out that we are all whole and that we just need to remind ourselves or be reminded. And I guess that is something powerful to me. You are in there. That you are so frustrated is proof it.

    This is your process. I have faith in your process. I truly do. That doesn’t mean everyone here at DT isn’t going to support you to make it easier. And that I don’t want you to write your heart out. And I want to hear from you as much as you can write – because having a support system makes it EASIER – IT JUST DOES.

    But you are in there. YOU ARE!

    And yes- I know what you are saying about being alone. I have to constantly CONSTANTLY remind myself that I am alone -but that does not make me have to be LONELY. And I also want to tell you that you HAVE MEANING and VALUE because there is no other reason why you would exist. I know exactly how hard it is to believe it. That is WHY I wrote my own column this week. I know how hard it is to wake up and believe it. And I am so grateful for you sharing your own process.

    And I truly think you need to write more about it. There is healing in the sharing of our stories. There is! We are all on this path. This is OUR HEALING JOURNEY. We are taking it together.

    Thank you so so much for your honesty and your vulnerability and your sharing. Thank you for letting me give you “advice” even if you didn’t ask for it. I am always here… e-mail me or comment as much as you can. It brings me a sense of purpose to know that others can be moved by my words. And I am TRULY moved by yours. To know that others feel as I do means a great deal. We are all here together.

    So much healing love! Write in!

  22. Melissa Travis says:

    Hello Maria!

    Thank you SO MUCH for writing in! Guess what! You have a book brewing – you just do! I see in you – I sense it! I am a writer- so do not ignore my words.

    YES YES YES to your last question – I DO often think if we can share it makes it worth while… that is what DT is about… that is what sharing our stories is about. Right? Meanwhile – you are so beautiful and eloquent. YOU SAY IT JUST RIGHT. You’re healing and feeling AND your words might help other people who are going through it – but with less ability to see.

    And — you’ve already flushed out a path. Sometimes we’ve stumbled around and smashed through a big wedge… SHINE YOUR LIGHT LADYTRON!!! DO IT!!

    I’m so proud of your words. They smack of honesty and bravery and so many hours of self-work and introspection. I know the hours of work you’ve done to get here… and the hours of work to get back to here when that work gets smashed down by another tidal wave!

    I’m in awe of you.

    Meanwhile– THANK YOU SO MUCH for bringing this perspective to me today- for sharing it! It is so beautiful to think of the mental, emotional, physical harmony we can all be in. It is profound how they can all move each other in the process – all the changes can spark each other – just as you speak of in your process. YES TO IT!

    To your sentence: “When I was young I wanted to accomplish great things.” I want to say this : Remember that quote… “There are no great things – only small things with great love.” ?? You remind me of this quote… THANK YOU — FOR BEING A GREAT PERSON — AND FOR DOING GREAT THINGS.

    I am so inspired now. And I am so grateful that you’ve written in. Thank you so much. Please keep doing so. *confetti*

  23. Melissa Travis says:

    Hello my Dear Sarah:

    Thank you so much for your beautiful compliments and for writing in. You know that I adore your writing and columns as well – so we are in a mutual adoration society!! What a perfectly balanced world we live in!

    And yes– the hierarchy systems (especially the education system) has touched my life because when we get professors or specifically trained educators they have to force themselves NOT to be offended by NOT being called, “doctor doctor” in the the US system. hehe. It always amuses me as a sociologist to watch the way each country and region does things different (sometimes better, sometimes worse- but usually just DIFFERENTLY).

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE your story of finding beautiful music out of a flat tire!!! I hate hooligans – and yet– how gorgeous that you were able to stop and take time for YOU in that moment. I know how stressful it is to have to get a new valve etc and yet– I LOVE that the lessons of life have helped you.

    (I just blogged about how dealing with the bureaucracy of getting a new license and tag renewal and being sent to a different country was EASY compared to hospital waiting and cancer result waiting and “watching cancer” etc). It is funny how LESSONS in patience and finding our selves with a sense of humor and a sense of CALM and “zen” can come from the other more HORRIFIC lessons in life.

    A few years ago not knowing the EXACT DATE OF MY MOVE would have irritated me to no end. I am someone who likes to PLAN PLAN PLAN. And yet now I am saying, “I will move SOON.” And I mean it. Most of my foreign friends from non western countries just nod knowingly because they are used to how life can throw you curves… and most of my western friends find it so odd that I am sitting here – resting on my laurels with a date of “soon.” ha!

    How life has given me a sense of “perspective” on “PLANNING.” None of us PLANNED to get sick. And yet LOOK AT YOU! Look at how beautiful and fabulous you have become with your own illnesses. I’m so proud and amazed and in awe of you! It is astounding!

    Yes – more empathetic, less judgmental, more wiling to roll with it, more willing to waiting for different timing… LIFE IS SO STRANGE what it can throw at us… and WE are so amazing at what we can learn from it. I’m so amazed at my fellow chronic illness friends – at how they are so amazing and beautiful and powerful and wonderful. It is SO INSPIRING TO ME!

    Thank you for writing to me. Thank you for being my friend. I am looking forward to the day when we meet face to face Sarah!

  24. Melissa Travis says:

    Dear Faeanna

    Thank you so much for writing in! And for your compassion!

    I’m SO EXCITED that you are going to be a physician! I have several friends who have lupus and other chronic illness who are in med school… and they are SO BRAVE and SO STRONG. They keep their illnesses hidden from their classmates and their professors and they tell me about it. And I am SO SO STUNNED BY THEM. I am so proud of them.

    And now you have written me and I am SO SO PROUD OF YOU!! You will be a FAR FAR better physician then anyone else. You have an idea of what it feels like to be sick and to be taken seriously. You will be a wonderful healer. I am excited about this. And I want to keep track of your career. Part of a research project I am working on (long term) is keeping track of certain doctors and surgeons over time… so when you are in med school and then out – I want you to keep talking to me about it… and during this time – I want you to keep talking to me about your health.

    It will be a mutual support system of healing and of your career! How exciting! SO BRAVE! SO EXCITING!

    Thank you for writing in. Please seriously – keep in contact with me. I really am working on a long term project with both healthy physicians and med-students who are dealing with illness. I’m so amazed and proud of their process.

    So much love to you!! So excited for you! Thank you for writing in!
    my e-mail is melissa@dearthyroid.org

  25. Melissa Travis says:

    Hello Laurie!

    I am so glad you wrote in! Thank you so much for your kind compliments!
    I adore ChemoBabe and hold her in the highest esteem.

    I would love to hear more about your own personal experiences. Please write back in and share your own journey. This is all about us supporting each other. So when you come back – I want to hear more from you!

    So much love!

  26. Lolly says:

    Melly Mel you have me sussed I don’t take compliments very well, may come down to a trust thing I am learning and you’re my teacher baby.

    I am so pleased that you are all doing much better now even your dog. I hope that when you do move to your new home that you find another great team of doctors that will work with you, laugh with you hold your hand when you need someone too. You’ve dopne it before you can do it again.

    Looking at you and hearing you is like seeing myself too,after all we are thysista’s and I bet you’re a water sign you quench my flames.

    Big monkey hugs back at ya.


  27. Amanda says:


    My appointment went well, endo good. I have Graves Disease and will be having a biopsy in 10 days. Trying to get my head around it right now.


  28. Sarah Downing says:

    Glad your appointment went well, Amanda. So sorry to hear about your diagnosis – new diagnoses are always really daunting. Let us know if there is anything we can do for you, OK?

  29. regime says:

    salut les gens j’aime bien ce post mais le regime est mon soucis.

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