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Claire Sachs

State: Maryland

Chronic Conditions: Asthma, Allergies, Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Retinopathy, Gastroparesis, Cataracts, Trigger Finger, Anemia, Neuropathy

My chronic journey started in 1983 with a catastrophic acute event -- bacterial meningitis -- which almost killed me and put me in a wheelchair for 18 months. It was also the catalyst that triggered my type 1 diabetes. Since then, despite my own best efforts sometimes, I have survived to develop several more chronic conditions. It’s like having a family. Of toddlers. Who never grow up. Each has its own special needs, and when they go quiet for too long, you know they’re about to make themselves known again.

Balancing even one chronic condition with the rest of your life is an energy-draining, full-time job that many of us have in one form or another. For a long time, I didn’t want to talk about my chronic life. I didn’t hide it, and anyone was welcome to ask questions, but I didn’t go out of my way to put it out there. Then someone asked me to talk about it and it changed my life. I wasn’t very good at it at first, but it felt good that I was helping, so I kept doing it. I started a blog that aims to help chronic and autoimmune patients become their own advocates, and joined a couple of non-profits. The thing is, if I can help someone avoid making my mistakes by sharing a life that hasn’t been healthy since I was five, then why not? I might just end up making someone’s life a little bit easier.