Friday, September 17, 2010


If I had to choose one word to describe myself, what would it be? As much as I’d like to choose words like determined, hardworking, empathetic, etc., a part of me would feel that the most honest word to describe myself would be ‘sick.’ But who wants to be summed up by four letters that confine you to the limits of your body?

When I was first diagnosed with IBD, I half-believed that I had become transparent and that anyone on the street might be able to tell that I sick with an intestinal disease. In the classroom, I wondered who knew what was wrong and who suspected that something was different. And even though I was on the executive of student governments and excelling at school, I quickly became branded as the sick girl. I’d like to think that I helped to change the way people thought about illness; yes, I missed a significant amount of school and had funny tubes coming out of me, but I contributed greatly to the school environment and graduated at the top of my class.

And so when I decided to go to Boston University, I expected excitement and encouragement from my peers. But I shrank back to my sick persona in their eyes and they encouraged me to stick around home so when I was sick, my parents could help me out. It seemed that no matter how much I did, no matter how much accomplished, I couldn’t wash off the ink that had branded me.

Now I stand looking at myself in the mirror in my dorm at BU and I smile at the slight bulge under my shirt - the branding of my ileostomy. I try to adjust my clothes which are now too big and think about all the cookies I should be eating. The internal branding of illness I once had is now on my skin, a real tattoo of sorts to show the world. I can’t scrub it off, but I don’t want to. It doesn’t brand me as sick, it brands me as a survivor, as a fighter.

We’re all like dictionaries: the title may be one word, but there are millions in each of us. Even if my word is sick, I can still be determined, hardworking, empathetic, and a thousand other things. Our one descriptive word can change, and that is within our power. No one labels us, for we label ourselves, and just like we change our clothes, we too can change how others see us and how we see ourselves.

In other words, I may be broken, but I'm not breakable.


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