I met Serena Lawrence online. That’s how life is lived today. I had requested writer’s guidelines from Fibromyalgia News Today in the hopes of submitting a column I’d written. Instead, after reviewing my proposed column, Serena invited me to become a weekly contributor. Thus began a year-long relationship with her as my columns editor — a person I counted on to be there to answer a question, solve an issue, or refer me to someone who could. At no time did it occur to me that she was anything other than as healthy as she was efficient. It was only after her passing last week that I learned of her long-term battle with pulmonary arterial hypertension.
Serena’s passing has had a surprising impact on me. I’ve begun to reflect upon all the people I encounter on a daily basis — whether in person, on the telephone, or online. How many of them I assume to be healthy and happy are facing battles far more serious than my own?
As fibromyalgia patients, we know the truth about hidden illness. Many of us work with unrelenting pain and fatigue, smiling bravely as we wait for 5 p.m. to come each day. We learn to endure the phrase, “But you look so healthy!” This well-intended comment is most difficult to hear when our symptoms are at their peak. Even with that daily experience, I must honestly say that I’d never considered what medical conditions might lie behind the smiling faces around me.
Serena’s passing has given me a new perspective. No longer will I assume that because people are doing a job, earning a living, looking and acting “healthy,” that they are what they appear to be. After all, I’m not. For most of my life, I wasn’t. Few people are aware of my inner struggle. However, I’ve been fortunate to have encountered mostly patience and understanding with whatever limitations I’ve been forced to reveal. But I can’t help but think whether my life could have been enriched by an extra act of love or kindness here or there.
With eyes newly opened, I’ve resolved to be more aware and more compassionate toward everyone I meet. I realize now that any one of them may be experiencing their last days or weeks on this earth. Each interaction shall be considered an honor, a gift, an opportunity to help shoulder a burden.
Serena’s passing has been my wakeup call. There are no more strangers in my life. Rather, I see the inhabitants of the world as fellow warriors braving unknown challenges, each of us suffering from the human condition.
Shame on me for not having adopted this philosophy long ago based upon my own hidden struggles. Instead, it took the untimely passing of someone I barely knew to drive that lesson home. Thank you, Serena Lawrence. Godspeed.
Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.