Book Review: Dear Chronic Illness

Dear Chronic Illness, Comprised by Pippa Stacey

Dear Chronic Illness is a collection of letters carefully comprised by Pippa Stacey. The letters are written by individuals to their chronic illnesses and detail what they would say to them if they could.

Now having just said that, you may think this is a variety of letters running through sad health stories while a violin solo plays in the background -No, it’s not. These letters sing to a different beat. Sure, they give their accounts of the challenges living their lives with their condition but they also provide these experience with a light-hearted banter. The type of banter a lot of us adopt when life gets hard and we learn to laugh at certain situations.

Having said this, that’s not to say chronic illness is something to simply be laughed at or not to be taken seriously by others. Sufferers’ have a hard enough time getting our doctors to believe our symptoms let alone family and friends we have around us. However, these letters dance along that borderline of somewhere in between the humorous inner commentaries us sufferers run through day-to-day and letting non-sufferers into the more serious, and eye-opening challenges that we have faced.

It’s a book which will provide new perspectives to friends and families of those with chronic illnesses but also provide a sigh of relief for other sufferers’, who can take comfort in the fact that someone with the same condition as them feels the same way. It’s a huge validation for thoughts and feelings we may be too scared to vocalise for fear of being misinterpreted.

For me personally, I had so many moments where I just quietly smiled at myself, my heart growing warmer that I wasn’t alone in thinking or feeling certain ways about my illness. Below are some quotes and snippets I have pulled from different letters that I personally scribbled a wobbly line under or an oversized circle around to be able to find at a moments notice when I need it again.

Although you took my teenage years away, you replaced it with a perspective and outlook on life that’s hard to come by -Ellie Whiting

Without you, M.E., I might never have been lost in the wilderness. Without you, M.E., I might never have found myself there either’ -Elizabeth Guntrip

‘You have taught me that being disabled through chronic illness is not a life sentence to unhappiness, it’s just a quirk- I don’t know many friends that own a floral walking stick or have been steered around shops in a wheelchair, crashed into multiple displays and cried with laughter at it. -Ellie Whiting

…I will say this: I’d like to thank you, M.E., for opening my eyes. Without becoming so poorly, I wouldn’t have seen how many people are silently suffering, and how little support is in place for them. -Pippa Stacey

The hardest thing you took away from me, was my pride. Being in a wheelchair is liberating and allows me some freedom, but it’s not all fun really – I used to be taller than all my friends, and now I sit at bum height. It’s like a sea of bottoms when we go out! -Ellie Whiting (never related to something more)

I went from teenager to doddery grandma in a weird Benjamin Button-esque way; feeling physically ancient despite my biological age of nineteen -Lara Strong

I know it’ll always be there, I’m well aware that my conditions won’t miraculously disappear, but I also never expected it to be as bad as it is. A part of me forgets the torture of a flare-up: the frustration, the anger, the sadness. A flare is like an abyss, as there’s no end in sight at the beginning, it completely consumes me and there are times I’ve wished for death. But there’s always a flicker of hope. -Sarah Alexander

I wouldn’t be running a social enterprise in my Disney pyjamas -Pippa Stacey

I would recommend this read to anyone, not just sufferers’ or family and friends of sufferer’s but literally anyone. This letters provide an insight which is enlightening to say the least, and in all honesty it’s something I can’t quite articulate into words so please just go with your gut and give it a read if your intrigued.

Cheerio for now!

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