All my life I've lived with a chronic gastrointestinal (stomach) disease. As the years have progressed my digestive system has slowly become paralyzed. Currently I am unable to eat food and receive all my nutrition and hydration through a small port in my chest. It is my lifeline and the one thing keeping me alive. As I've progressed through this disease I've come to learn many different things, things that no one told me to expect. Things that have shocked me and shaken me to my core, but through all these things I've grown stronger as a person and that is the reason I am who I am now. So I thought I'd take a minute and share some of things with you, in case you too are struggling with a chronic disease, so that you can use the information to better your life.


1. There will be good days, bad days and downright horrible days

    I know everyone says there will be good days and bad days, but they tend to leave out the simple fact that there will also be downright horrible days. There will be days where you think it's a downright horrible day and it can't get any worse, but then it does and you're left feeling like you were betrayed. But the thing to remember is that after the storm comes the beauty. There is nothing like the fresh smell of the air after it has rained, and you have to pass through the storm in order to smell the air. However, you must also learn to dance in the rain, and that takes a great deal of strength, but can also be surprisingly refreshing when you look back on it. So don't let those downright horrible days keep you from still living your life.


2. You will learn who your true friends are

    I've had many people tell me that no matter what happens to me they'll stick by my side. Yet a few months will go by and I'll stop hearing from them, and when I try to initiate contact there isn't a response. While I'm hurt by their actions, I know that ultimately they are trying to protect themselves. They begin to realize how critical my situation is and they distance themselves to prevent themselves the pain they may experience from becoming emotionally invested in my life. It's a harsh reality, but a reality none the less. So I let them go, and I've learned the true value of my friends who have remained by my side through it all.


3. Family is priceless

    In highschool my family was not one of my priorities. I didn't value them or my relationship with them like I should have. Yet as I got sicker I learned the true value of family. For they were the ones who never let me spend a day alone in the hospital. They loved me through my anger, my fear and my joy. So instead of turning from your family during your struggle, embrace them, because they may end up playing a critical role in keeping you alive.


4. You will want to die

    No, you aren't suicidal. No, it's not abnormal to have those thoughts. You're fighting a battle for your life, and sometimes that battle isn't easy, and death seems like the sweeter option. I know for me, I'd rather go to heaven where there isn't any pain or suffering, but I continue to fight because we never know what we might miss out on if we choose to end our life before God takes us home.


5. Faith can be your foundation

    If you've never read the "Footprints," poem I highly recommend it. It talks about a man who was looking back on his life and he saw two sets of footprints in the sand. His footprints and those of Jesus. However, at some of the toughest parts of his life he noticed only one set of footprints in the sand, so he turned to Jesus and asked him, "Lord why did you leave me during my trials?" Jesus answered, "My child, I would never leave you during your toughest times, for it was during those times that I carried you." So I know if I were to look back at my life over these past few years I would only see one set of footprints in the sand, because Jesus has been carrying me.


6. True strength is sometimes revealed through tears

    Tears are not a sign of weakness. They are a sign of strength. On those downright horrible days the only thing you'll want to do is cry and keeping those tears bottled up will only leave you more depressed and frustrated. So instead be brave enough to display your emotions and let those tears fall. They can leave you feeling more cleansed and strengthened than you realize.


7. You must NEVER GIVE UP

Giving up cannot be an option, for if you give up you've let your disease win. Oh yes, you'll want to give up, and that will seem like the best option, but in reality, giving up will cause you to miss out on potential victories and amazing adventures in your life. Remember that you fight not just for yourself, but for those you love, and let that be your motivator when you want to just quit playing this game we call life.


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