Few people have ever dealt with chronic illness as poignantly as Porochista Khakpour, who wrote the memoir Sick about being diagnosed with late-stage Lyme Disease. The award-winning novelist and essayist opens up about her journey, the surprising prevalence of chronic disease, and the enduring myth of full recovery.
by Sollis Health
Your experience is unique in that you haven’t just battled Lyme Disease but also trauma, depression, and years of misdiagnoses. Did it feel like your Lyme diagnosis was as much the end of one journey as it was the beginning of another?
I think for most people with Lyme it works this way. We have a long way to go with research, resources, funding, the works. It’s a very tough illness that becomes many illnesses for most people. The journey never quite ends.
Your memoir, Sick, mentions “the myth of full recovery”. What do you mean by that?
I’ve only met two people in my life who were recovered and not in some form of remission. We don’t have a cure yet. Bee venom therapy is the closest perhaps but not everyone can tolerate that.
What’s the worst medical horror story you can share with us?
Every ER visit would qualify as that. I was sent to a psych ward once after insisting I was physically ill too many times. Finally they insisted I go to psych and I spent a couple days there just to not get medical clearance to stay in the psych ward. I was like, so there is something wrong with me physically then? They were like *shrug emoji.* I wish I was kidding.
Any moments of humor that have happened along the way?
People would be surprised to know the IV wards we spend a lot of time in are often full of laughter and jokes. Here we are holding bags of our own blood for ozone and often people just break through the horror and absurdity with some great lines. I love that part of it.
“I was sent to a psych ward once after insisting I was physically ill too many times.”
What has surprised you the most about your experience with chronic illness?
That most people are chronically ill or become so eventually. Sadly.
What is the latest update (if there is one!) in your battle with Lyme? How are you feeling these days relative to what you’ve been through?
I am not doing terribly well at the moment but mold is more the culprit than Lyme. Mycotoxin illness really makes Lyme look like a breeze, I have to say.
What would you say is the biggest misconception about chronic illness? Is there anything you wish you could make people understand better?
I think people who are healthy really think that chronic illness is linear, that you go up steadily or down steadily. And it almost never is. It’s a series of ups and downs, cycles of spirals really.
Your book definitely subverts the traditional idea of the illness memoir, but if there has been any silver lining, what would you say it is?
That I am still alive. That I can still write. That I can still laugh.
What have you learned about yourself—and/or the human spirit in general?
About myself? That I actually am not as strong as I used to be and that’s okay. The human spirit? Who knows! All I know is that there are more good people than bad and that means a lot is possible in this world.
Any words to live by?
Well, I’m a novelist—it would take 200+ pages for my honest answer!
“Healthy people think that chronic illness is linear, that you go up steadily or down steadily. And it almost never is. It’s a series of ups and downs, cycles of spirals.”
The views and opinions expressed in this campaign are those of the participants, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Sollis Health.
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