An A to Z of chronic illness: Part 5

Welcome to the fifth and final installment in the ‘A to Z of Chronic Illness’ series of posts.  A series of posts to use the letters of the alphabets and find words to describe what it is like to live with a chronic illness.  Today is the last post which covers the letters U through to Z.

If you have any suggestions, or comments on the words that you would use to describe chronic illness, then please feel free to leave a message below.


U is for…


Yes, an excellent word to describe what living with a chronic illness is like.  It is certainly very unpredictable to live with a chronic illness.  You never know when symptoms are going to kick in; what days you are going to be unwell.  One minute, you can be feeling well, and the next minute, the symptoms hit you, and it’s like being in the crutches of the particular health condition in which you live.  No days are the same; one day, one symptom such as the dizziness can be bothering you, and the next day it can disappear, only to be replaced by another symptom.  In addition, many chronic illnesses are also unpredictable, as often the course and progression of the health condition is unknown and unpredictable – it is not known what symptoms the patient will or will not develop; how quickly the condition will progress; or even, how severe the condition will affect the patient.  Everything about living with a chronic illness is unpredictable.





V is for…


Another hard letter to find a word that describes life with chronic illness.  Vertigo may not be a word that fits in with most chronic illnesses, but it certainly is an accurate word that describes my life with chronic illness. Vertigo is a subtype of the more common symptom of dizziness in which people inappropriately experience the perception of motion; such as a spinning sensation.  It is extremely unpleasant, and very difficult to live with, especially on a daily basis.  Vertigo is also associated with nausea and vomiting, as well as problems with balance; often resulting in difficulties with standing or walking.





W is for…


There were a few possibilities for W; such as walking or war, but I thought I would choose weakness instead.  Due to chronic illness, most patients often feel feeling very weak, as their bodies are crippling under the effects of the symptoms that their health condition can cause.  Patients often feel so weak that everything is extremely difficult; taking up all of our energy until we have run out of ‘spoons’ (see ‘Spoonie’ for an explanation).  Certain part of our bodies may also show weakness, for example, I suffer with what is known as ‘spastic paraparesis’, which is severe stiffness and weakness of the legs.  It is because of this weakness that I am unable to stand for more than ten minutes, as they often give way with no warning.  Weakness can be seen as a loss of strength and control of movement in the arms, legs or whatever part of the body that is affected by the chronic illness.





X is for…


This letter was a massive challenge!  Especially as there are a limited number of words that start with the letter ‘x’ to begin with!  Xerostomia is the medical term for a dry mouth.  And how does this word tie in with chromic illness, you ask?  Well, a dry mouth can be a symptom of systemic diseases such as Sjogren’s syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma to name but a few.  However, a dry mouth can also be a side effect of a number of different medications.  It is certainly a side effect that I have to deal with, and has resulted in me always carrying some minutes of chewing gum to help combat this






Y is for


Just as I have mentioned previously that chronic illness is extremely unpredictable, it is also a lot like a yo-yo.  There are many ups and downs whilst living with chronic illness; there are good days and bad days; there are days where you feel well and those where you feel extremely unwell.  The ups and downs, of course, do not only apply to the physical aspects of illness, but can also describe the psychological side of illness.  There are days that I am sure everyone feels depressed, and wallowing in misery because of the effects that the illness is impacting on their lives.  But there are also the days that are good emotionally, where we feel positive, and that we could take on the world!






Z is for…


I really could not think of any other word for the letter ‘z’!  Consider this famous quote:

“When you hear hoofbeats, think horses not zebras” –
Dr Theodore Woodward

Now zebra is used as the medical slang, and symbol for rare diseases.  Often when a patient becomes unwell and are going through tests to search of a diagnosis, doctors will always consider the more common medical conditions, and rarely think outside the box for an uncommon cause, as of course like horses the majority of chronic illnesses are often commonplace.  However, not all patients will arrive at a simple, commonplace diagnosis, like my diagnosis some are rare and unusual, such as hearing hoofbeats and finding a zebra behind you!



3 thoughts on “An A to Z of chronic illness: Part 5

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