What the possibility of remission means to me

 

Entering remission of a medical illness is usually accompanied by happiness and hope. It is an important reminder that things can get better, and that you are more than your illness.

Everyone always talks about the positives of remission and I suppose that is a good thing, considering that having an autoimmune disease can have many negative side effects and consequences. That being said, it is also important to realize that remission is not the same as being cured.

Cured means being symptom-free. It is the absence of the possibility of the disease returning. Meanwhile, remission is the temporary relief from symptoms. Remission brings with it the possibility of the disease returning.

Society celebrates remission as a victory. We forget that while someone may be symptom-free, someone may not be disease-free. Just because someone is in remission does not mean someone does not need support.

I have lived over eight years of my life with Ulcerative Colitis, an autoimmune disease, and five years with Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura (ITP), a second autoimmune disease.

While the possibility of at least one of my autoimmune diseases being in remission has me filled with joy, I’ve learned to never take anything without a grain of salt. The fact is that when you have a chronic illness, you never know for sure if symptoms are lurking around the corner.

So, yes, remission is an amazing thing, but it is also just another step in the process of being chronically ill.

Having an autoimmune disease for eight years means an increased risk of cancer. It still means more doctor visits and blood draws. Possibly being in remission is still a reminder that I am ill.

I like to consider myself as having a positive outlook considering my diagnoses. I am chronically ill, and I’ve oddly enough found empowerment in this fact.

There are still people out there who consider people with an invisible disease, which autoimmune disease often are, as perfectly healthy, and refuse to believe that they are ill. I am not about to be so ignorant as to assume that this won’t increase if I am in remission.

If you don’t present with physical symptoms, then you are seen as healthy.

Stigmas apply to any disease that can’t be immediately fixed with a bandaid or a cast. Either you’re faking it, just need to think more positively, or you did something to deserve it.

These are all incredibly dangerous accusations and do nothing to help the person suffering. Remission can complicate this further. During remission, one may not be showing symptoms for long periods of time. Or if they are, they may be infrequent episodes.

Remission is amazing; even temporary relief from the constant bombardment of medications is an exciting concept. But it also brings its own challenges to traverse.

No one ever says remission is bad, and I’m not trying to argue that, either.

But before we as a society celebrate remission as a victory, we need to remember that support is still necessary. Just because someone isn’t experiencing symptoms now, doesn’t mean they won’t later.

There is a big difference between remission and cured. And while I am excited about the possibility of being in remission, I know it is also important to realize there are no cures for these autoimmune diseases. They will be with me for the rest of my life.

Remission needs to be considered within the full spectrum of the word’s definition. One battle may be over, but that does not mean the war is won.

 

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