When you’re a chronic patient, what comes to mind with the word progress?

My first few years of being ill, a lot of doctors told me that the reason I was sick was because I wasn’t being proactive and responsible in seeking a diagnosis and treatment. This attitude fostered a lot of growth in me and underscored numerous intense arguments with my family. Now that I’m seeking medical care on my own, no doctor can tell me that I’m not being responsible. But the question remains: am I making progress?

Progress is defined as “forward movement in a given direction or toward a destination”.

For me, medical progress means that we (the medical team and I) are getting closer to knowing what I have and figuring out how to treat it. Of course, there’s another definition of medical progress: feeling better and stronger and able to do more stuff.

The tricky part is that we want both types of medical progress and usually they come at the same time. But for chronic patients, progress type 1 is absolutely necessary to achieve progress type 2. So even if there isn’t quantifiable progress that an outsider might be looking forward to, there is still definite and very real progress happening.

Anything living requires time to heal and to develop. With a chronic illness, time can be measured in months or even years. In the grand scheme of things, it’s amazing to think that a person can even partially recover from a debilitating illness. But in the context of school which measures itself in days and weeks, healing seems to take an eternity.

Sometimes semantics really do distinguish one thought from another. From a conversation with a friend earlier this week, I realized that what I see as much anticipated progress appears as stalemate to an outsider. That outsider assigns a different meaning to progress and then is confused when my behavior doesn’t match the assumed progress.

Thinking out loud,


2 thoughts on “Progress?

  1. My grandfather once said to me when I had a bunch of doctors trying to diagnose something unusual and unexplainable that was happening to me….”if they are still doing tests, then you are still alive”. And as you live…you can continue to make progress…at whatever speed/rate/progress you need. 🙂


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