Illness & Social Life: I Missed My Nephew’s Birthday…And Why It’s Okay

Mom & Mikko at his 8th Birthday
Mom & Mikko at his 8th Birthday

This is a picture of my mom and my nephew, Mikko, at his 8th birthday over the weekend.  I missed it.  My legs have been hurting lately.  (I even resumed physical therapy this week, which I successfully completed last December.)  The strange thing was I didn’t feel that sad last Saturday night as I sometimes have when I’ve missed other parties and holidays like Thanksgiving due to chronic pain or autoimmune issues–constantly having to avoid getting the cold or the flu.  I realized I wasn’t that sad because I consider any day I spend with my nieces and nephews a special occasion.  Whether we’re having brunch or doing something mundane like picking up Mikko and his 11-year old brother, Tyson, from school, it IS a special occasion.  I was missing out on one night but I’m not really missing out.

A Day At The Movies

Way back in August, my favorite movie (tied with Rocky) Grease returned to movie theaters.  It came during a very hectic time for me.  It was only in theaters for one day, a Thursday.  The day before, I visited my OBGYN because I was having a terrible month-long flare up of the polycystic ovarian disease, which I wrote about in Chronic Illness is Like Getting Your Heart Broken Again and Again.  The night before the movie I had three hours of sleep because I was in so much pain post-appointment.  The day after the movies, I was scheduled to go to the hospital for blood tests for the myasthenia gravis.  Somehow, I was able to go with my niece CJ who I’m very proud of (a fashionista/party planner/friend to everyone who is 28-years old), Tyson, and Mikko, to see Grease.  You might be wondering why would I expend so much energy to see a movie when I felt absolutely terrible?  Grease holds a very special place in my heart and my family’s.  I fell in love with the movie when I was seven.  When other little girls came to school dressed as Disney princesses, I came as a Pink Lady.  When my mom was away, I would clear the coffee table so I could jump on top of it like John Travolta jumps on top of the car during Greased Lightning.  You can’t perform Greased Lightning without a car!  As soon as I saw my mom’s car in the driveway, I’d fix the coffee table–complete with the linen cloth and my mom’s marble duck set–quickly.  One Christmas, when I was 8-years old, we were supposed to have a talent show featuring all the grandchildren.  Since no one else prepared anything, I did the last scene of Grease by myself.  I played both Danny and Sandy.  I wore two jackets–one to throw down when I was Sandy and one when I was Danny, the next second.

While we were in the theaters, I could see that Tyson was engaged.  He told me before the movie that all his friends talked about how much they like it and he was eager to finally watch it.   CJ wore a Pink Ladies jacket while I wore my black leather motorcycle jacket.  Now, Mikko loves to dance.  He and Tyson did Gangham Style last Christmas and Mikko and my niece, Alani, did Uptown Funk at our family reunion this summer.  I thought Mikko would love it but he seemed pensive the whole time.  I couldn’t read his reaction.  After the movie, we didn’t have time to talk because we had to drop the boys off at Tae Kwon Do.  Unbeknownst to me, the next day, Mikko asked his aunt to order the movie on Netflix.   Last month, the boys were at my house.  When I asked Mikko about his second viewing of Grease, he said, “I LOVE IT!”  I told him about the Christmas of 1992 when I played Sandy and Danny.

Mikko responded, “Aww man, I wish I could have been there.”

But you weren’t even’t born then!”

I know but still I wish I could have been there.”  Then, Mikko asked me if I had a video of my performance on YouTube or my iPhone.  I explained that YouTube and iPhones didn’t exist when I was a child.

As we re-watched the last scene of Grease on YouTube, he shouted, “This is the best part!” when We Go Together started.  My 8-year old self agrees.  When his mom picked him up, and he put his jacket on and exclaimed,  “Look!  I’m Danny Zuko.  My jacket is black and has letters on the back.”

He Gets It

Mikko was Dracula and his 8th birthday was Transylvania-themed.  Guests attended in their Halloween costumes.  There was lots of dancing.  I saw all the fun pictures and videos on Facebook. Yesterday, I texted my cousin, Sharon, “I’m sorry I missed the party.  My legs have been hurting.”

She responded, “I know and Mikko knows.  He has been thinking of you.  He actually has a present he wants to give you.”

Mikko knows what’s in my heart.  Sometimes, illness makes us miss the big moments.  And yeah, it sucks.  But we can make the little, everyday moments count.  And that is something illness can never take away.

–Your Stylist, Jessica Gimeno










Hi there! I am a patient advocate, writer, and public speaker most well known for my TEDx Talk, “How to Get Stuff Done When You Are Depressed.” As someone who is juggling 5 illnesses: bipolar 2, myasthenia gravis, endometriosis, psoriasis, and asthma, I’m passionate about helping people who navigate life with both chronic physical & emotional pain. If you’re interested in hiring me to speak at your event, check out the CONTACT tab.

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