My Essay on Chronic Illness in “The Mighty”

So, when I’m not writing fiction or book reviews (or working), I’m being chronically ill.  Actually, I’m chronically ill all the time now, and all that other stuff has to be worked around the illness issues.  I recently had a piece come out in “The Mighty,” which I originally entitled “Why Students Need Sick Faculty,” but which has been retitled “What I Offer My Students as a Chronically Ill Professor,” which is a little less punchy, but whatever.

I also originally had two photos with it, one of when I was feeling pretty good (because I was in in remission, I now realize) and backpacked out to Halti, the highest point in Finland:

Halti Picture

This is the picture that is emblazoned triumphantly across the masthead.  The other picture, which wasn’t posted, is of me sitting at the spot on the stairs in my house where I was having to sit or even lie down and rest before crawling the rest of the way up:

Stair Picture

Fortunately I’ve been feeling a bit better recently and was even able to walk up and down the stairs in a slow, but semi-normal, fashion, no doubt because classes are out and I’ve mainly been sitting at home writing for the past couple of weeks.  Still, it’s just crazy how difficult even little things can be now.  When I interact with healthier people, I feel like I’m dealing with some kind of strange, alien beings who can just do things like get in the car and drive to the store or even the mall the next town over WHENEVER THEY FEEL LIKE IT.  You just don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone!

Anyway, as the essay says, we sick people have lots to offer to the currently healthy, even if they don’t realize it.  Being ill isn’t  good experience, but it is an experience, and one everyone gets to got through, so you might as well get what you can out of it.  There are a lot of times when I want to say, “I wish The Ring had never come to me!  I wish none of this had ever happened!” but that, of course, is not for me to decide.  All I have to decide is what to do with the Ring I’ve been given.  So I’m trying to think of this as adding, rather than subtracting, excitement from my life.  Healthy people lead such boring, tame lives, but for me, a trip to the grocery store these days IS like backpacking across the wilderness and summiting some barren peak.  And I get to do it every week, whether I want to or not.  Not even dedicated peak-baggers can claim that.

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