Yes, You’re Sick But That Doesn’t Mean You’re Weak

Words by Frances Leones

Photos by Frances Leones

When you have a health issue that can’t be easily fixed with medicines, it can be a struggle. If you’re born with or diagnosed with a physical condition that imposes certain limitations on what your body’s allowed to do, it can make you feel left out. Sometimes, you can’t help but feel like a total wimp and ask yourself, “Why am I so weak?”

Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re not weak. And that you’re not alone.

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I’ve had my fair share of health problems in life. When I was little, I punctured my left eardrum. Every time I go swimming, I have to wear earplugs to keep the water out otherwise I’ll get ear infections. I also have asthma, which means I have to avoid inhaling too much smoke or dust and carry an inhaler around wherever I go. I have flat feet so my gait is a little uneven as my steps tend to go inward instead of the usual outward, and I get tired from walking or standing faster than the average person. Shoe-shopping becomes a challenge, as I have to focus on finding orthopedic footwear rather than the latest trendy design and saying no to high heels.

But it’s my scoliosis that gives me the most number of restrictions on what my body can do. I was diagnosed with scoliosis back in 2007 at the age of 9. I had to attend physical therapy and do special exercises while my bones were still developing. When I entered Grade 6, I had to start wearing a full-body brace underneath my clothes to prevent my spine from curving any further.

It was not easy wearing a body brace for almost 6 years. It was like wearing a plastic corset that could get super warm in the heat, turning my body into a living furnace and making me sweat buckets. When I outgrew my first brace, I had to go to PGH and spend hours getting plastered up so the doctors would have a mold of my entire upper torso to use as a model for making my new brace. Having scoliosis and needing to wear a body brace, my body’s movements were very limited. I felt like a robot, having little to no flexibility while wearing my it almost 24/7. And it was lonely watching my classmates play sports I wasn’t allowed to do – usually one-handed sports like badminton and tennis – because of my condition. Even after my bones fully developed by the time I turned 18, there were still limits on what my physical body could do.

Admittedly, I still continue to feel restrained by my own body. There are days where I dwell on how frail my body is compared to non-sick people and those who go to the gym and are the epitome of fitness. They’re stronger than me, more flexible than me, and have better endurance than me. And, sometimes, I can’t help but feel sad about it.

But then I look back on those years where I endured wearing a body brace, going to physical therapy, and keeping a close eye on my weight so my scoliosis would be easier to manage, I think to myself, “Wow. I did all of that.”

For those who suffer from similar conditions and even more serious diseases like cancer or diabetes, look back on everything you’ve endured. Whether it’s doctor’s appointments, taking what seems like hundreds of prescription drugs, or getting poked with needles nearly every day, look back on all those tough times then say, “Wow. I did all of that.”

I’m not saying anything against those who don’t live with a chronic illness or certain physical conditions. On the contrary, I think they are very fortunate to not have any serious health problems and that I hope they treasure and take care of their health. But for us who have to endure illnesses or conditions that keep us from doing certain activities, let’s remember that we work just as hard, if not, harder than all the rest.

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It takes a strong spirit to go through everything you’re going through on a daily basis if you’re sick. Yes, your physical body is weak. But that doesn’t mean your spirit is. You’re already a warrior through trying your best to live your life as best as you can while battling against something that makes you weak according to your medical records.

And, while you have limitations, don’t let that stop you from finding other ways to keep yourself healthy. Can’t do cheerleader-style gymnastics? A few simple stretches will be enough to get limber. Get winded too quickly from running? Go for a brisk walk or dance to get your daily cardio.

It can be tough living with an illness or a condition that limits what your body can do. It can be disheartening to look at your medical records and see that you’re physically weaker than everybody else. But never let your condition define who you are. Take whatever steps needed to get healthy and alleviate your pain. Above all, remember that you are stronger than you seem.

If you ever consider yourself weak because you’re sick, look back on all the things you have had to do to keep your condition in check and say to yourself, “Wow… I did all of that.”

Got a story about your struggles with illness? Share it in the comments below!


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