The doctor’s words echo through my brain. Chronic. Illness. Lupus. Won’t ever go away
As told to Rochel Samet
Nine pills a day. Starting with five over breakfast. Urghhh.
But on the plus side, I wake up on day three post diagnosis with a weird surge of energy. I guess it’s back-to-school time.
Everything still hurts, but less, so I can actually walk down the stairs. The swelling is going down. I feel strange, different.
Of course you feel different. You’re sick. You have lupus.
The doctor’s words echo through my brain. Chronic. Illness. Lupus. Won’t ever go away.
I have a chronic illness. I’m never gonna get better.
I shake my head at the hallway mirror. It’s not true, I’m already feeling better, the medication’s going to help and I will get better....
It won’t ever go away.
I push a loose strand of hair out my eyes, lean into the mirror, and whisper, “Hi, I’m Libby, and I’m sick.”
I sneak a glance around; no one seems to be nearby. I continue my commentary to the skinny kid with large eyes, the sick kid, me. “I have lupus. It’s not cancer. But it never goes away.”
The mirror grimaces back at me.
Ma’s in the kitchen when I come to get a drink and take my pills. Ugh, I hate doing it while she hovers, watching.
“Back to school today, that’s great,” she says, with that same wide smile she keeps putting on every time she sees me. I nod and turn away to down the pills.
It’s hard enough to cope with that over-cheery smile, without having to read the pity in her eyes.
Physically, I might be feeling a little better, but emotionally it’s a different story. The doctor warned me that steroids could do this, but I couldn’t have imagined anything like this.
The Shabbos meal should’ve been nice, seeing as I could actually eat normal food again (yup, that whole starvation diet was pointless; it wasn’t food causing the issues…), and it probably would’ve been fine if not for the people. The young married couple has come for Shabbos, it should’ve been cute, but instead it was just irritating. Zeesy with her overeager conversation with Ma; Henny and her overconfident opinions all the time; even Chaim’s teasing gets on my nerves.
“Whoa, what’s up with you, Libby?” he asks in surprise, when I snap at him about some stupid comment.
“Nothing,” I say through gritted teeth.
Of course, Henny has to add her two cents. “Yeah, Libby, you gotta chill, he was only kidding.”
I don’t bother answering. Instead, I grab a bentsher and head off to the living room, flinging myself onto the nearest armchair and reaching for a magazine. Just go away, everyone.
Sara finds me there later. I guess the meal is over.
“Libby, wanna play a game with me?” she asks hopefully. Usually I would smile apologetically or something, tousle her curly hair and tell her not now, maybe in a half hour, but today I’m just a mess inside and I can’t.
“Go ask Henny. Or Ma.” I don’t bother looking up.
“But Henny’s talking to Zeesy and Ma’s resting,” Sara says plaintively. I finally lift my eyes from the magazine; she looks at me with an injured expression. The two of us always got along, even when I was too sick to do anything with her. But there’s a volcano of tension in my chest and I feel it bubble over, out of control.
“So go to a friend or something, just leave me alone, I’m not playing games, okay?” It’s not my voice, it’s rough and mean and I hate it and I feel terrible but I just can’t help it.
Sara’s face droops and she blinks a few times. Shucks, now she’s gonna get all insulted.
“And grow up,” I mutter.
She turns abruptly, leaves the room.
I stare after her, an ache in my chest. So the doctor was right. Steroids have turned me into a monster.
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 817)
Oops! We could not locate your form.