By Kris McFalls
“Back in the day" women personalized their menstrual cycles as a way to warn friends and family about their impending premenstrual syndrome, PMS. People didn’t want to hear the details; they just wanted a fair warning that PMS was on the way. Therefore, women personified their menstrual cycle with endearing names such as Aunt Flo. Everyone knew that when Aunt Flo was about to visit, they needed to have a little more patience and understanding.
Enduring the symptoms of chronic disease is much like having a visit from Aunt Flo on a less predictable schedule. So, what if we treated chronic disease much like a woman treated her PMS? What if we personified these invisible diseases? I’ve taken the liberty of personifying a few of them for your reading pleasure.
Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) is way too long of a name. You practically need a medical degree to understand it, and a speech pathologist to teach you how to say it. I would call CIDP Grace. She is a presence not to be ignored and, in fact, she burns with desire to make her existence felt. Life with Grace is unpredictable, which can make walking with her a bit of a challenge and may require extra support. Grace will teach you what it means to appreciate the life you have.
Primary immune deficiency disease (PIDD) would have to be called Mr. Ed. If it looks like a horse, talks like a horse and sounds like a horse, it must be a horse, right? You would be wrong. Mr. Ed, made infamous in the 1960s television show as a horse, was in fact a zebra. How appropriate that the Immune Deficiency Foundation has adopted the Zebra as their mantra.
Fibromyalgia would have to be Casper, after Casper the friendly ghost. Not everyone believes in Casper, but those that know him well feel his presence every day. He is with them when they wake up in the morning and sleeps with them every night. Some people think Casper is an imaginary friend. They have trouble believing Casper exists. But Casper can really make his presence known to those who believe in him. Some day, doctors will find a magic potion so that everyone will be able to see Casper.
I would call colitis John. John and I would have a secret love affair. I could visit John multiple times every day. John would see a side of me that does not often see the light of day and yet he would never complain; he would be such a good listener. There are days when I would suddenly need to unleash my burdens on John. He would always be there ready to support my load. John would take in whatever I needed to dish out and then just flush it away like nothing ever happened.
Talking about a chronic disease should not make people want to run as fast as they can. It should also not be the only topic of conversation. Maybe if we can inject just a little bit of humor and personality that others can understand, it will make the burden lighter for all. So go ahead and tell us: What name would you give your disease?