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Understanding the Invisible Struggles

June 26, 2024

As parents, our primary concern is the well-being of our children. We nurture, guide, and support them through every challenge they face. But what happens when those challenges are invisible to the outside world? This question hits close to home for many families, including my own.

June 26, 2016

Two weeks before I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a deadly and aggressive cancer, a picture was taken of me. In that picture, I looked happy, healthy, and full of life. There was no visible indication of the storm brewing inside my body. My diagnosis didn't stay invisible for long, but it’s a stark reminder that you can't always see what someone is going through.

For many families, the journey to a diagnosis is fraught with frustration and heartache. It's challenging when people dismiss your concerns because your child "looks fine." This experience isn't unique to my situation; it happens every day to families dealing with chronic illnesses, mental health conditions, and rare diseases. Just because someone doesn't look sick doesn't mean they aren't facing unimaginable difficulties.

Chronic pain, fatigue, anxiety, and other symptoms are often invisible, leading to a lack of understanding and empathy from others. As a community, we need to remind ourselves and each other that appearances can be deceiving. It's crucial to foster a culture of empathy and awareness. We can support those who are struggling by listening without judgment when they share their health struggles, believing them, and listening with an open heart. Educating ourselves and others about different conditions and their symptoms helps everyone understand that health issues aren't always visible. Offering small gestures of kindness and support, such as helping with errands, providing a listening ear, or simply being there, can make a huge difference. We should be patient and compassionate, recognizing that people may have limitations or need accommodations even if they don't appear sick. Most importantly, we should approach others with empathy, not sympathy. Empathy involves understanding and sharing the feelings of another, building connection and support, while sympathy can sometimes make people feel more isolated.

July 10th, 2016 First Day at Mayo

Reflecting on my own journey, I realize how important it is to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. My diagnosis came as a shock to many because I didn't look sick. But this experience has taught me that we must always be mindful of the battles others might be fighting behind closed doors.

The Fourth of July is a time of great reflection for me. It marks a difficult period in my life when my odds of survival were less than 1%. Eight years later, I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve families and make a positive impact on their lives.

As we move forward, let's make a conscious effort to be more understanding and compassionate. Remember that you don't know what people are going through. That picture taken two weeks before my diagnosis is a powerful reminder of this truth.

Let's use our experiences to inspire empathy and support for one another. Together, we can create a community where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued.

October 20, 2016: Transplant Day

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