Taking the Higher Road; The Sick Woman’s Burden

1208755_86981107Between 2008 and 2010, when I gained ten dress sizes on Prednisone, I experienced no shortage of insults—some intentional and some not.  In meeting other chronically ill women (with Lupus, MS, Sjogren’s, Muscular Dystrophy, Fibromyalgia, Diabetes, and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS) and having cancer survivors in my family, I know that my experience is not atypical.  This leads me to day’s WEGO question as I continue National Health Blog Post Month:  “Take the High Road
:  Write about a time you had to be the bigger person and take the high road. 

MY ANSWER:  My Most Memorable Moment

In the fall of 2008, I was released from the hospital after two weeks of plasmapheresis.  Before treatment, I was in critical condition but miraculously beat the Myasthenia Gravis (MG).  A normal person’s antibody titer count is zero.  Mine was 625!  During my hospitalization, fifty people from church visited me.  These people were like family.  They came bringing casseroles, flowers, and balloons.  My “Tita L”* visited me even though she suffers from MS, PCOS, Diabetes, and Fibromyalgia.  We’ve been close my whole life.  Flash-forward a few weeks, I was sitting at a church table with ten people.  Tita L’s husband surprised my by saying, “You’re getting fat.”  Silence; nobody said anything.

            Then I retorted, “Well you know I’m on steroids for my ILLNESS.”

            Louder, he repeated himself, “You’re getting fat.”

            Tita L defended me, “You know she’s sick.  She has MG.  I have MS.  We’re both on steroids—

            —So now you’re twins.”

The nerve of this guy!  I wanted to blurt out, “If I’m getting fat, are you getting sober? Anything is possible.”  Like that Sex in the City episode when some jerk calls a pregnant Miranda fat and Carrie retorts, “She’s pregnant.  What’s your excuse?  Twins?”  I didn’t hit him back which was hard for me.  I let it go because I’m a Christian (Luke 6:27-28).

What I’ve Learned Since Then

What I learned since then is that people like him insult sick people because they are insecure about themselves.  A few years after that I was at a friend’s dinner party, which included Tita L, her husband, and their two children.  He called his own son fat in front of everyone!

Lincoln Park Fiasco

In 2010, I had an urgent appointment in Lincoln Park regarding getting my book published.  Everything went wrong that day.  It was Murphy’s Law in full force.  First, my body was aching.  Then there was construction.  But I got to the station in the nick of time.  And then the train was 30 minutes late.  By the time I made it to the city, I was relieved when I got to the bookstore.  At last, I arrived at my destination!  Then the salespeople told me I was at the wrong Borders—apparently; there were two Borders in the city!  I had no money for the bus; the bookstore wouldn’t give me change until I bought something I didn’t need.  Upon seeing my New Kids on the Block keychain, the forty-year old saleswoman would not let me go.  She regaled me with tales of her youth during 1990’s Magic Summer Tour.  This was the one moment in my life I did not want to talk NKOTB.  I finally got a bus to take me to the right bookstore, but it only went so far.  I had to walk twenty minutes in the frigid cold.  That day, twice two guys asked me out—one too old for me and the other was jailbait.  No matter who they were, I would have said no.  I explained that everything went wrong that day and if I ever left the building for a quick meal, something would inevitably go wrong and I’d never return.  They thought I was nuts.  But ultimately I met the person I was supposed to meet and all went well.

I was surprised to be asked out because I assumed those days were over since my face and body changed.  Then I realized that everyone who ever insulted me about my appearance knew I was sick.  No stranger ever insulted me.  Ultimately, people who put us down do so because they are insecure about themselves.  The liberating truth is:  It’s never about us.  nhbmp-logo-300x83

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post in the WEGO Challenge.

–Your Stylist,

Jessica Gimeno

* “Tita” means “Aunt” in Tagalog


Hi, I have five illnesses--bipolar disorder, myasthenia gravis (neuromuscular autoimmune disease), endometriosis, asthma, and psoriasis. Most of the organs in my body are affected. I'm dedicated to being a stylist for sick women. As someone who has experienced changes in my appearance due to my 12 meds (including Prednisone), I know how hard it can be when your face and body change overnight. (In fact, because of treatment, between 2008 to 2010, I went from a size 0 to a size 10. While I lost the weight, there are permanent changes in my face and body, which I've grown to appreciate.) My blog will also help women deal with other issues like surviving chronic pain and fatigue. Healthy people can also use this blog as a window into what life with illness is like. Let this website be a place where we can draw strength from each other despite our illnesses and find solutions to our everyday challenges!

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