“How in God’s Green Earth can YOU be so chipper?” queried a fellow shopper after I assaulted her cerebellum with my litany of GPA/Autoimmune/ Primary Immune Deficiency/Diabetic/Tracheal Stenotic/Neurotic High Dose Steroid Syndrome/Tracheostomy Reliant/Rituxan Receiving/Anemic diagnosis. I’m the President of the “But You Don’t LOOK Sick!” Club, and am in training for World’s Hot Mess Queen Pageant ’23. Which leads me to, where does this Chronic Illness Warrior (aka: Bat Poop Crazy Queen) find her inner happy, happy, joy, joy?
Daily I ask myself, “What is the most excellent thing I can do today?” (a quote from my personal hero, Neil Pert, the drummer/lyricist for the rock group RUSH), and sometimes the answer to that question is taking care of myself. What does this caretaking look like? For starters, I figure the only body part over which I have creative control is my hair, so I’ve been dying it pink and purple since my first difficult diagnosis in ’07. And because my hair is hippy dippy it allows me the freedom to be happy go- ree-free! Sometimes my Victory Over Vasculitis (VOV), looks like two dozen of my famous Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies for my college dorm dwelling, homesick daughter. Or my VOV, my Most Excellent Thing, is counting my blessings-how my second Rituxan infusion shrunk my bronchus inflammation by 50%.
Okay, I admit my infusion bag is half full not half empty, but this life never promised me a rose garden! What I DO know is the answer to my fellow shopper’s question as to why I’m so ‘chipper’ despite-it-all. I remind myself that my medical difficulties are a lot like how you grow a perfect snow pea. The greenest, healthiest plants grow in the rankest fertilizer. The juiciest, most succulent, plumpest, sweetest snow pea perfection prances proudly ready for the picking–all because of what we don’t see under the smelly surface.
Much like my summer sweet pea bounty, the medical menagerie under my epidermis is brewing a concoction of meaningful divine moments just waiting to escape my heart of hearts. I choose to count the bounty of blessings that have come from the layers of my life. My fellow “But You Don’t LOOK Sick!” Club Member are the most precious blessings. YOU understand I didn’t just gain 20 pounds in my face because I can’t keep my inflamed digits outta the cookie jar. YOU really DO feel my pain and I know I’m NOT alone.
-Cheryl Haggard blooms in Idaho, nourished by her family and her co-conspirator Gus (aka: hedgehog extraordinaire). She was diagnosed with GPA vasculitis in 2021.