More Than An Illness
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Beethoven was a phenomenal composer, so famous for his music that we still love it. He also became deaf in his thirties.

Frida Kahlo was a painter whose self portraits are so striking that several movies have been made about her. She also had polio.

Stephen Hawking is a world famous physicist and mathematician with brilliant theories of the way the universe works. He also has Lou Gehrig Disease, is wheelchair bound, and speaks through a computerized mouthpiece.

Tanni Carys Davina Grey-Thompson OBE (Officer of the British Empire) has won fourteen Paralympic medals including nine golds, broken over twenty world records, and won five London marathons. She also has spina biffida and is in a wheelchair.

Sudha Chandran is a premier classical dancer in India. She also has an amputated right leg.

Russell Winwood competes in Ironman competitions. He competes in marathons and triathlons all over the world. He also has stage four COPD.

Michelle Vincent is a writer who reaches tens of thousands of readers. She is a photographer, historian, and rescues kittens in her spare time. She also has stage three COPD.

That’s me, by the way. And just like the famous people I talked about above,

I am first and foremost a person, and a person who has interests and activities beyond being a COPD patient.

I am more than my illness.

You are more than your illness.

I am more than my wheelchair. I am more than a pulmonologist’s or allergist’s patient. I am more than my prescriptions or a number on a medical file. I am more than “the little cripple girl” as someone once referred to me as. I have thoughts and dreams and goals. I like opening the window to hear the rainfall. I can recognize songbirds from their songs. Researching history and science and the universe is one of my great passions. I am an advocate. I am a nature lover and share how my world looks through my camera lens.

I am more than my illness.

You are more than your illness.

Being sick definitely affects our lives. It affects us. We can’t do things we used to. We go to the doctor a lot. We may need a cane, or a walker, or a wheelchair to get around. We may need oxygen. We need a lot of rest. We take a lot of medication. We cough a lot. We go slower than most people. Yet it isn’t who we are.

No illness can take that away from us.

I have a friend who does beautiful cross stitch and beautiful embroidery for other people. She loves animals and bakes a mean cake. Oh, she also has several chronic illnesses.

I have another friend who draws beautiful concept art. Her lines are simple and made for coloring books, or other friends, or her hobby. And she’s also disabled.

I have several friends who belong to a historical reenactment group and have learned several crafts. One helps children in the group learn many things. One bakes goods for events she can’t even attend (the goods are picked up and delivered to the events by someone else) just to help with the fundraising. One person spins wool into thread with a small drop spindle. One actually makes paper from linen rag. One writes songs and sings and another plays a guitar. One lovely lady weaves pieces from yarns or threads. Another advocates for handicap accessible meeting places, event sites, and inclusion. Yet another brews beer and makes mead and wine. They have all sorts of varied talents and arts. The one thing they have in common is all of them are sick or disabled in some way. I myself do calligraphy with a goose quill pen.

I am more than my illness.

You are more than your illness.

Maybe you speed read. Or give your pet dog a wonderful home and lifelong friend. Maybe you know a lot about sports, or the words to every Beatles songs ever recorded. Maybe you’re a great parent, or a great grandparent for a child (either young or adult) who loves you. Maybe you knit or crochet or make jewelry. Maybe you’re a great movie buff. Or you read mysteries. Maybe you sing or swim or travel. Maybe you love beaches and have always wanted to go to Sri Lanka. Maybe you’re an expert on Medieval fake fingernails in Japan.

Do you recognize yourself here?

Well, maybe not with the fake Japanese fingernails. But do recognize that you are an artist/swimmer/parent/dog lover who has COPD and not a COPD sufferer who draws, etc. Put the description of what make you you first. You just happen to be sick too. Because, after all…

You are more than your illness.

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