Living with ITP uncovers an adolescent’s hidden human strength and gratitude.
I was diagnosed with immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) in February 2015. Throughout this continuing period of medical care, I have received so much support from teachers, family and friends. I am humbled by the love they show me, and I realize how fortunate I am to be surrounded by such caring people. Going frequently to the clinical care center at Texas Children’s Hospital and seeing children younger than me diagnosed with cancer and other autoimmune disorders have helped me to appreciate just how fragile life can be. It has helped me to keep a positive perspective with my own health issues and not let this autoimmune disorder interfere with living my life to the fullest. I see more clearly the preciousness of life and try to share my positive attitude with my friends and family. I have grown through this personal challenge by being helpful, loving, and kind whenever I can, and try to always have a smile on my face when times get rough. I trust that whatever comes my way in the future, my faith, family, friends and community will help me to remain strong, positive and loving to meet these challenges.
Having ITP has also had an impact on my self-image. Two initial rounds of treatment involved the use of steroids which resulted in considerable weight gain. As a result, I realized that I needed to develop an overall healthier lifestyle with more select food and exercise decisions. I have begun to establish healthier eating choices by including more vegetables and fruits in my diet. I try to avoid consuming junk food such as chips, fried foods, and heavy starch items whenever possible. I have made an effort in becoming fit by getting more active through a summer membership at the YMCA. I would pace myself in trying to surpass my goal of walking distance covered each time at the gym. These exercises and healthy eating habits have helped me to begin to address some of these issues. ITP has served as a catalyst to help me appreciate how easy it is to not be conscious about my eating habits. This weight gain has also changed my after-school routine. I now walk after school every day around the building as a part of my daily exercise. I have lost a considerable amount of weight, and it has become a habit to jog around my school when I can as I wait for my dad to pick me up to go home. I believe that these choices have increased my physical energy level as well as reinforce my positive outlook to do what I can to maintain my health. I am also exploring homeopathic options to treat ITP in the hope that I can have more freedom to maintain a lifestyle that is not so dependent on chemical medications.
When I visit the hospital clinic each month and see children who have serious illnesses at such a young age, it makes me appreciate how the body is a delicate and complex organism. I stand in wonder in realizing how fortunate I am to have access to medical resources which help me. And I try to reach out to others who have serous health related issues by offering them encouragement and support. Also, I have grown in becoming more grateful for what I do have and can do compared to those occasions when I would complain about how school work can be hard or that I could not go to parties with my girlfriends. When I see some children needing intensive care or treatment, I realize how privileged I am to be able to go to school for my education and that I have the option of spending time with my friends. Some children don’t have those options because they have to stay in a hospital for their treatment. I appreciate that I can attend school or hang out with my friends and not be grounded constantly in a medical center.
The treatment environment at the hospital clinic, an infusion room for patients with oncology or hematology-related illnesses, has helped impact my future career choices as a potential engineer or computer scientist. I have been inspired to develop technology that is more patient-friendly and efficient in collecting data. I would like to produce machines that are eco-friendly and cost efficient in developing the medicine the patients need. I have noticed that sometimes the technology being used to give the treatment to the patients is painful and makes the patient feel distressed. I hope that one day I can create technology that is capable of distributing medicine in a more comfortable way so the experience won’t be so unpleasant and unbearable for the child.
Due to tiring more easily, I have had to make adjustments in my daily work schedule to rest more often. I play violin in an orchestra at a rigorous performing arts and academic high school. Fortunately, there is a very supportive staff at school which has helped me to maintain my educational goals without compromising the work load.
Finally, being diagnosed with ITP has enabled me to realize my strengths as a person. I have recognized that I love interacting with people to help them feel happier and safer. In my hospital experiences, I noticed how some staff would help calm patients undergoing painful treatments by talking to them in a reassuring manner. No matter what my career path is, I know that I can and will offer others who are hurting such reassurance and comfort. I feel that by offering them this comfort I can help them transcend their pain a little by knowing others are there to love and support them. This kind of care for those who are hurting or discouraged by their circumstances can truly serve as the greater good for my life’s pathway.