By Lisa Mark, C.P.O.
Advocates are all around us. When you have a tribe to advocate for your well-being and safety, it makes even the most serious illness more bearable. The story below is about a nine-year-old girl who thought that it was important to speak up on my behalf. I share it with you so that you can understand that sometimes support comes from the most unexpected sources.
When my older daughter was nine and my younger daughter was four, we took the (for me) brave step of eating out at a nearby family restaurant. Because I was still recovering from my nearly fatal bout of blood poisoning, still had touches of gastroparesis, and was very susceptible to infection from improperly prepared foods, I had one condition to eating out: that everything I ordered needed to be brought to the table steaming hot to ensure that any bacteria had been neutralized.
I ordered fresh orange juice and requested that it be microwaved (I know, I know) and brought to the table hot. The server who took our order agreed to my strange request. My oldest and her dad then went to the salad bar while I stayed at the table with my youngest. It took them a long time to come back to the table; so long, in fact, that I was beginning to worry. When they returned to the table my nine-year-old was frowning and my spouse looked annoyed. Our conversation went something like this.
Me: ‘Something wrong?’
Nine-year-old: starts to speak, looks at her dad, frowns. ‘Nothing.’
Me: knowing something is up. ‘Okay guys. What happened back there at the salad bar?’
Spouse: ‘Nothing happened at the salad bar.’
Nine-year-old: whispering to her dad, ‘We should tell them.’
Me: ‘Ahem. Tell me what?’
Spouse: ‘When we were at the salad bar, we heard the kitchen staff laughing at the crazy lady who wanted her orange juice microwaved.’
Me: ‘It is kind of a weird request.’
Nine-year-old, in a rush: ‘No it’s not! You’re sick and they need to respect that. So daddy and I went in and told them that you were sick and almost died and need everything boiled and they should not be laughing at you. And they’re going to apologize to you. So there.’
A few minutes later the entire kitchen staff walked past our table and each one personally apologized for laughing at me. Was it embarrassing? Yes. But what I took away from the experience is that even young children can advocate for their loved ones experiencing traumatic illness. And such support makes our journey as Illness Warriors that much easier.