Sunday, September 4, 2011

September is IC awareness month!

What? You didn't know that September is IC (interstitial cystitis) awareness month? Of course you didn't. Let's face it, for most of you, I am the only person you know who has IC, and some of you haven't even met me yet. How self-involved is it of me to even write a post about this? I might just have well entitled this blog post, "September is ME awareness month." Egad.

But still, IC awareness month it is, and so I have painted my toenails blue because blue is the official color of IC'ness. Yeah, I thought yellow would be a better fit too. Go figure.

For the curious, there are websites with lots of information about IC. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you have some idea of what it is like to live with this chronic, painful bladder disease. Really, though, asking you to become more aware feels uncomfortably narcissistic. This really isn't about me.

I am fairly open about my experiences with IC. I know that the descriptions of the treatments, procedures and pain leave some of you squirming in your seats. Still, you listen and care. Seriously, you people rock.

Honoring something like IC awareness month, though, can also be about other-people awareness. This month, like all the other months that have illnesses, conditions and difficulties attached to them, is about being aware that other people are dealing with stuff. Hard stuff. Stuff like cancer, depression, suicide, heart disease, and intellectual handicaps. We live busy lives, and so much of the suffering that people go through is invisible to those around them. It is too easy to shrug it off, to hold up ignorance as a justification and to plow our way through life without paying attention to the people on our path.

If anything, awareness campaigns encourage us to be others-focused, no matter what issue they are dealing with. To be grateful if we are among the ones who don't need an awareness month. To be informed, for those around us who might be struggling.

One of the difficult aspects of many of these illnesses and and conditions is that patients are weakened emotionally, physically and often mentally at a time when they most need the ability to understand, ask questions, seek answers, assert themselves with health care professionals, and cope with an endless schedule of tests, appointments, medication and treatments.

Contrary to popular belief, I don't think that it is necessary to suffer illness in order to be able to understand, to relate and to help. My best friend is proof of this. Gloriously healthy herself, she is unfailingly understanding and compassionate. She "gets it". Love has a wonderful way of doing that for us. That's something we all can do for others.

So, for those of you who have asked questions, cringed in sympathy when I am flaring and taken the time to understand a bit about IC, I thank you. You bring me comfort and make this journey immeasurably easier. Your prayers, support, encouraging words and sensitivity mean so much to me. You walk this road with me patiently and compassionately, even if we do have to stop at every washroom in every rest-stop along the way. I love you.

We all know the old adage about not judging others until we have walked in their shoes. Let's allow awareness months to be a continuous reminder that there are a lot of people wearing some heavy, ill-fitting and painful shoes on some really, long, difficult journeys. We can't always tell, but we can care. And caring means everything.'s potty time...

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