Do not use my illness as an excuse to not give me a gift!
In the first year of my diagnosis, holidays were sad and lonely. On my birthday, I received only one card and no visitors. I couldn’t figure out why everyone would let me down on the hardest year of my life. “I don’t want to make you sick,” they said. “I don’t know what you’re not allergic to.”
I cried and accepted my fate. My disease was too complicated to understand. Gifts were just another casualty of my illness.
…until this year, when I created a new support system of compassionate and somewhat quirky friends (more on that later (you can do this too!))…
…and they gave me ALL THE GIFTS.
The smorgasbord I received after surgery this year
This year, my friends lavished me with mast cell friendly gifts: Fiji water, Vanicream, books, homemade food, and even dog poop bags! I literally broke out in hives at their generosity (and that’s okay!). They cared enough to get to know me and the challenges I face each day. They taught me I am deserving not only of gifts, but loving friends.
Now I know we can’t all be as generous as my friends. But truly anyone can give and receive a gift. Some of my most cherished gifts are handmade cards telling me I’m a badass. A little thoughtfulness goes a long way and when in doubt, just ask! It’s really that simple.
My best Valentine’s Day memories are not romantic. In fact, my fondest memory was the result of a lot of puke. In third grade, I woke up with the flu on Valentine’s Day. I tried to get ready for school anyway, determined to pass out the valentines I painstakingly crafted the night before, but I vomit-blasted the hallway with such ferocity that I quickly retreated back to bed. All day, I lay in bed, brokenhearted and feverish, with only an empty bucket to console me. (Okay, I’m pretty sure my mom was around too, but we remember what we feel, even if it is a little dramatic.) My valentine mailbox, a shoebox covered in construction paper, sat empty on my dresser.
That day I learned:
How to control vomit
Sometimes illness forces you to stay home, no matter what day it is
Valentine’s Day sucks when you’re all alone
Then, at 3:30, the doorbell rang. I heard my mom invite the visitor inside. A few seconds later, my bedroom door opened. My third grade teacher entered the room.
“AHHHHH, she in my house!” I thought, sitting in my pajamas, but feeling completely naked. “She is breaking the rules! How did she find me?”
“I brought you this,” she said, handing me a shoebox covered with red and pink hearts. “I hope you feel better soon.”
After she left and I recovered from the realization that teachers can leave school, I opened the box. Inside were 22 handcrafted valentines from my classmates, and one from my teacher.
I wish you a healthy Valentine’s Day, full of thoughtful surprises. And if that’s not possible, please don’t wait for your third grade teacher to show up at your door. Sometimes self-care is the best valentine of all.