I learned at a very young age that we have the ability to choose our attitudes and to shape our perspectives with gratitude.

I was raised in rural Southwest Missouri as the oldest of four girls. We lived on our family’s orchard/farm and lived a very modest life. We could not afford cable, my mother tended her garden so that we didn’t have to buy as much produce and most of our clothing were hand-me-downs or from discount stores. My family qualified for food stamps many years and sometimes relied on federal/state aid to assist us with getting by. My father had his own business but as with many small businesses, there were tough years. And when my parents separated when I was in high school, my mother began working night shifts and odd schedules to make ends meet.

Although we weren’t wealthy I didn’t consider myself poor. Truth be told, most families in our community were in the same boat, others worse. And my mother and father taught us two incredible lessons that I think really changed how I perceived our situation.

  1. We are Blessed: My mother taught us to be grateful for what we had. She was raised in a home with dirt floors in the Philippines and the life we lived was straight up luxury compared to her brothers and sisters (family of 10!). We often donated food and whatever we could to those who lived without. My mom took us to volunteer at soup kitchens, elderly homes and wherever else we could serve others. I was aware that we didn’t have money but we had love, faith in each other and gratitude for what we had.
  2. We are Smart and Talented: My parents expected nothing less than excellence. Yes, I had a “tiger mom” and was held to high standards. But both of my parents believed that all four of us were highly intelligent, capable and talented. My parents taught me that we had something to offer to the world. And by golly we better prove it! If we didn’t like something, it was up to us to affect change. I seriously had an argument with my Dad once because he swore that I would “go to an Ivy league college!” I was angry with him at the time but now understand he knew that I was smart enough and should challenge myself in life. (For the record I graduated from a state university…. Missouri State University, to be exact! Go BEARS!)

In dealing with chronic illness these two lessons have been gifts in helping me get through the tough times.

There will be times when you feel like life is s h i t and that your disease is counteracting every step you have made in your life. You may feel betrayed, frustrated, exasperated and “cry every time you see trigger foods” emotional. I get it, we live with a disease that has no cure, no known cause and we miss some of the best parts of life (food, experiences, opportunities) because of this damn thing.

But I am blessed. I am grateful. I see others who are in worse condition than myself and feel real empathy for them. I see those who are in better condition than me and celebrate their health! I am able to fully, truly, whole heartedly ENJOY the times when I can do life like a normal person. Moments of remission or times when my disease doesn’t take the main stage in my mind are those when I feel the happiness, the gratitude.

I am blessed that my disease has given me friendships with people from all over the world. That I understand the battles that so many face (physically and emotionally) because I too, wage invisible warfare.

And guess what Mom and Dad?! I’m SMART AND TALENTED. I can make wise decisions, health changes and be an advocate for myself to freaking BOSS this disease. I won’t go down without a fight and I will somehow find a way to thrive.

We often don’t give ourselves enough credit for how strong we are. How resilient we are…. How freaking amazing we are for carrying this weight and doing “life”!

Can you choose WILL over ILL?

I think you can.

You might not be able to do it alone. You will likely need friends, family members, a good medical team and the understanding of those around you. It might seem insurmountable but the task is yours and you are smart and talented, my friend.

Choose to be the most stubborn, persistent, won’t go down without a fight patient. Tears and pain will come and go, but your spirit will always remain.