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The Light Side of CHD

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

By Becca Atherton

There is a saying that laughter is the best medicine. While I don’t think laughter can outperform modern medicine, I do believe that having a sense of humor and being able to laugh can help when coping with an illness such as CHD.

I’m sure that those of us who have a scar have gotten some pretty odd questions about it. Just yesterday an older lady asked me if I had spilled something on my chest. There were two ways I could’ve looked at it. One way would have been the negative view, and I would’ve thought she was making fun of me or just being rude. The other side saw it for how it really was, just an honest question from a woman who was confused and curious and to be honest, I got a kick out of the question. I have never once had someone ask me if I had spilled something, and she seemed so concerned about it too! I went home laughing, in all honesty.

It’s important to be able to recognize who is making rude remarks to hurt and who is honestly curious and just isn’t sure how to word the question. If you respond to the rude person with the same attitude that they had, they are less likely to listen to you—and you won’t ever make an impact on them or educate them about CHD. And if you think that an honestly curious person is being rude and react with offense, you’ll have the same effect. It’s important that no matter how the words come out, you answer as kindly as possible in the hope of educating them.

With that being said, in my experience 99% of people who have asked ridiculous questions do not mean any harm by them; however, there was a time when I couldn’t realize that. Being bullied as a child because of my CHD, my scar and my voice, I was convinced that every comment or question that was worded in an insensitive way was purposely done so just to hurt me. But I realized that the majority of times, people weren’t trying to hurt me and once I realized that, I actually got a kick out of what people said to me. I had someone tell me and my friends from camp that we had “cute little matching scars” and that it was the most adorable thing she had ever seen. We all smiled and nodded and once she was out of earshot, we laughed our heads off.

I have always had a good sense of humor and I can laugh and make jokes with my friends about how I’m going as Iron Man for Halloween because I have a pacemaker and he has a pacemaker-like device so I’m already halfway there. CHD has some control over our lives. It controls the fact that I can’t have caffeine, go on the trampoline or go on roller coasters. And I know that at one point in every ACHD patient’s life, they have felt like they had no control over what was happening to them; I’ve felt it too. I felt like my health was running my life and I had no say in it.

But you have a say in your sense of humor. If you choose to look at things in the worst possible light, you are just surrendering even more control to your CHD. So make a promise to yourself. The next time something goes wrong or someone says something about you having CHD, try and look at it with humor—you won’t regret it.


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