The Three C’s

What does strength look like in the context of chronic illness?I’m not sure just what I expected from a life with chronic illness, but if I’m honest, I’d hoped I would have something valuable to offer – like words of encouragement, answers about how to live well, a positive attitude, hope and joy oozing from my soul.

Yet in the last two months, I have been assaulted on so many fronts. The battle with chronic illness has taken on new dimensions and new depths, and instead of insights, I’m filled with more questions and uncertainty.

I refer to these questions as the 3-C’s: Compassion, Complaining and Comparison.

Compassion has a real cost. I often believe I’m OK with accepting the price for being there for others, for offering kindness and support, for being like the Energizer Bunny – going, going, going, ignoring the pain and exhaustion of body and mind to appreciate the moments of service and love I offer to others. However, when my body, mind and spirit quit, and the pain is too much, I’m left wondering, “Was I was really willing to pay the cost?

Complaining is what I believe I’m doing when I express that I’m unwell or in pain. I think most people genuinely care, but lack true understanding. The old saying, “You’ve got to walk a mile in another man’s shoes,” seems all too accurate. And I’m left wondering, “Should I be silent or authentic?

Comparison is another ugly trap I find myself in. I minimize this life with chronic illness, pain and limitations, and sometimes others do too, suggesting that I should be grateful, “because things could be so much worse.” I could have a more debilitating ailment. But a friend once told me, “Pain is pain.” My pain is real. And if that’s true, is comparison really helpful?

My daughter, also chronically ill, is experiencing more frequent flares while trying to lead a “normal” life. My dad had a large brain tumor removed just a month ago and yesterday started his first round of radiation and chemotherapy. My mom has suddenly been thrust into the leadership role in their marriage after 50 years of my dad being the strong one. A dear friend won’t, or maybe can’t, respond to questions about how she’s feeling, because it’s simply too hard to share the difficult reality right now.

I ask God why all these things are happening then almost immediately pause and wonder, “But why not?” We live in a fallen world. Scripture tells us, “In this world, you will have trouble.” John 16:33a

I ask God why I can’t simply be joyful. Some pray, “Search me, O God,” but today, I’m afraid of what other suffering God might allow. So instead, I’m asking myself, “What does true strength look like in the context of chronic illness?

Two words keep creeping into my thoughts: gratitude and community.

When days are difficult, I find I’m compelled to say “thank you” for simple acts of kindness – someone holding the elevator door, a receptionist offering a warm welcome, a nurse or a doctor being patient with our endless questions.

Those two simple words change my attitude, soften my heart, and begin to shift my perspective.

Perhaps it isn’t answers that are necessary. Perhaps what really matters is sharing life whatever our circumstances.

Today we’re asking you the question, “What does strength look like in the context of chronic illness?”




Pamela Piquette is the mom of three adult children, grandma of a two sweet baby granddaughters, and wife of more than 30 years. She has Ehlers-Danlos, chronic migraines, fibromyalgia, and dysautonomia.


A HUGE thank you to Allie Lofy of for designing the Sharing Life, Discovering Hope graphic above. Allie does fantastic work and we highly recommend her.


5 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Thank you for your transparency. …sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who has these thoughts……so appreciate this community. ……working, with God’s help on the gratitude piece…..Blessings to all who suffer 🙂

  2. I have often seen my daughter’s strength in doing things that she does not want (eg-standing up with 4 chest tubes still in, knowing it was going to be painful, but still doing it) or being brave when she feels she is not able. Beautiful words Pamela.

  3. Strength is watching my 21 year old son rise to face one more morning with life-altering illness. Courage.
    Strength is watching my 17 year old daughter learn to access her own medical port. Fearless.
    Strength is watching my 19 year old finish this term of college by determination alone as her body rebels. Will of steel.
    Strength is watching my 15 year old play 7 back-to-back volleyball matches after being able to keep no food or liquids down more than 12 hours. Iron resolution.
    Strength is watching my 23 year old take a leap of faith and step into this new phase of his life. Passion.
    Strength is watching my husband provide for a medically challenging family for 25 years. Selfless.
    Strength is clinging to hope in the darkest moments, knowing God is in this, and we are His. Faith.

    • Wow Cindee….these words you share…strength is defined in so many perspectives and felt in your writing. Very powerful.

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