I sometimes wonder what it was like to be chronically ill before the internet. It’s really only been in the last fifteen or so years we have been able to search our symptoms before a doctor’s appointment or run to WebMD after a diagnosis and then find a support group immediately of people who have the same illness we have. We have access to medical research and journals that were only available in print and to a select few prior to the information age. We’ve become experts in ways even our best doctors cannot. In the last ten years social media emerged. In addition to the wealth of knowledge we also have countless Facebook groups, public and private, to ask questions about our diagnoses, share information on the best physicians and our experiences with them, post imaging and swap medical articles related to our illnesses. We have hashtags for our conditions. We create YouTube videos to raise awareness and give others outside our sick community a window into what day to day life is like. We create fundraising pages to share and be shared in an effort to pay some of the exorbitant price of continuing our fight for the most whole life. We have Caring Bridge pages to keep family and friends updated during surgeries and treatment and some of us have chronicled our stories with great candor through personal blogs. As HIPAA is cracking down even more harshly in medical settings, we, as patients, are going further and further down the road of willingness to open up about our personal health information with anyone and everyone who will listen.
Jodi Piccoult writes in her book Second Glances,
Heroes didn’t leap tall buildings or stop bullets with an outstretched hand; they didn’t wear boots and capes. They bled, and they bruised, and their superpowers were as simple as listening, or loving. Heroes were ordinary people who knew that even if their own lives were impossibly knotted, they could untangle someone else’s. And maybe that one act could lead someone to rescue you right back.
One of my deepest desires wrapped up in writing and publishing Gauntlet With a Gift has been to create a beautiful space where the many heroes who have helped saved me and are untying one another’s knots can also share their own stories. I have already purchased what will be the eventual permanent home of this project but for now I plan to bring our community together here on my blog every Thursday. These posts from my brave friends may be short essays about challenges they are facing now, thoughts on chronic illness in general, hopes for their future, specific needs and fundraising links, a poem they’ve written, a story about love or kindness shown to them, or a narrative about a special physician or nurse who has been an angel in their journey. They will be varied and are meant to show as a collection the many aspects of our struggle. More than anything I want you to see the gifts along our very difficult paths and understand the courage we find in unsuspecting places to keep hoping and fighting for the best life possible.
Tomorrow I will post the first story. I have gathered a small group who are already slated to share for the first few weeks. If you are walking a Gauntlet or are close to someone who is and would like to contribute please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will send you the instructions for submitting. Share with anyone you know who might like to join our Gauntlet Story Feast. (Please use the hash tag #GauntletStoryFeast when sharing so we can find and follow one another.)
Dan Allender shares this thought in To Be Told: God Invites You to Coauthor Your Future,
We human beings are meant to be celebrated. We are meant to be the subject of tears, struggle, and heartache, of raucous laughter, wonder and joy. We are meant to be birthed into the care of others who know and love our story.
One of the greatest gifts in my own Gauntlet is the caring and knowing of others.
My story matters.
Your story matters.
Alone we cannot manage all this.
Hand in hand we can experience it, walk through it and do the very best we can.
Together our stories can untie impossible knots and rescue one another over and over again.
Our Hope remains.
Photography by Cindee Snider Re. Used with permission.
Quote taken from Michele Cushatt’s new book Undone: A Story of Making Peace With an Unexpected Life.