How To Have A Positive Mental Health When You’re 20 And Living With Chronic Disease

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I have a childhood best friend named Rain. From the first time that I met her at the daycare center, we had always been playing with each other. She would come over to my house for playdates and vice versa. It was a good thing that we lived in the same neighborhood, so we managed to enter the same elementary school and even class.

People often asked, “How are you still best friends?” I could not blame them for their curiosity because Rain and I were total opposites. Whereas I could spend hours in one corner with a good book or my coloring kit, she always felt the need to get up and explore the room and touch everything in it. Our moods were not matched, considering I rarely smiled around others, while she was quick to offer a smile to anyone. My best friend did cheerleading for extracurricular activities, while I joined the chess club (the most boring of all clubs, according to her).

 My typical reply was, “We are meant to be sisters.” After all, sisters do not always need to have common interests to like each other. Even when I was reading silently, and Rain was practicing her dance routines in the same room, we still felt close. There was never an issue about school popularity, too, which my best friend dominated. We loved supporting each other no matter what.

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When high school ended, Rain and I were lucky to get accepted at NYU. She majored in Dance while I focused on Finance. Again, those subjects were poles apart, but that’s okay. I would always get a front-row seat during her recitals, and she often brought me coffee and donuts whenever I pulled an all-nighter to study. It should not be surprising that our parents agreed to share an apartment a couple of blocks away from the university.

Then, sad news rocked us all when a doctor diagnosed Rain with scoliosis during an executive checkup. The morning before that, she was still joking, “What if the doc finds out that I have an STD that I don’t know about?” But when I came back after my classes in the afternoon, I saw her in a quiet living room in deep thought. Music always followed Rain wherever she went, so I thought that odd.

When I asked what happened, she told me about her scoliosis. Pouting, she said, “I want to dance forever. What guarantee do I have now that I can still do that?”

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I had no idea how to answer my best friend, but I promised to accompany her to her next doctor’s appointment. While waiting for that, Rain made the diagnosis known to her coach, who also felt saddened. Though Rain was slated to star in their Fall recital, the coach thought it was best for her to sit this one out and star in the Winter showcase to rehabilitate her back. Of course, my best friend was not happy about it, but what could she do?

Living With A Chronic Disease At 20

For a few weeks, I hardly saw Rain smile. She attended her classes, went to her part-time job, and even cheered me on during a decathlon competition, but I knew that her mind must be all over the place. That was until the doctor disclosed that her spine slightly curved like the letter S, but it was not prominent yet. (Yey to early diagnosis!)

The appointment happened a day before my best friend’s 20th birthday. When the eve of her birthday came, our other friends and I surprised her with a cake and party. Before blowing the candles, Rain uttered, “Starting tomorrow, I will dance again. Scoliosis can kiss me in the you-know-what.” It earned a roar of laughter and more cheers from us. Knowing Rain for so long, I knew that she meant every word.

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The next morning, my best friend woke me up by blasting the speakers and hip-hopping in my bedroom. She was like, “Get up, sleepyhead! Early birds like us should be exercising by now!” Since I was ever supportive, I joined Rain as she jogged around Central Park. The doctor gave her a go signal to dance again, too, provided that she wore a back brace to avoid straining her spine. Luckily, Rain was hell-bent on starring in their Winter showcase, so she followed everything the doctor said to a T.

Sometimes, Rain would complain about her aching back, which was expected because of the hours of practice she clocked in almost daily. But her regular X-rays showed that her spinal curvature was not getting worse, so she was elated.

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At Present

Rain went on to audition for various Broadway musicals and tried her luck on dance films. She eventually became a choreographer for a musical, and others started contacting her, asking if she could lend them some of her expertise.

How was my best friend’s scoliosis, you might ask? It’s still there – I doubt it will ever go away. However, the most important thing was it no longer in the way of Rain’s dreams.