Having a critical illness is terrible. It is no fun at all. Even in the darkest of times there are some pretty good moments that you cling to in order to make it through the rest of the darkness. Overall, being too ill to work isn’t cool and being on short term disability isn’t a vacation.
Finding out that you have a critical illness, in my case breast cancer, isn’t easy. Coming to the realization about the duration, this wasn’t going to be a long weekend type issue, isn’t easy. Trying to deal with the reality of what is coming and how to help your family through it isn’t easy. Having four surgeries, numerous procedures, four chemotherapy infusions and countless tests along with all the appointments that go along with the aforementioned list isn’t easy.
There are people who don’t understand, they think you are off work just sitting around watching Netflix. I have watched so much Netflix and Amazon Prime Video and on demand video it isn’t a cool thing to do anymore. It kind of became a chore to find something interesting but not too long because of my frequent napping. Something that could easily be paused for sickness or other physical issues, for doctors appointments etc. Something entertaining, but not a huge time investment. I often turned to video games. Legend of Zelda, breath of the wild was my go to.
They don’t understand that how many miles are going on the car for trips to appointments to see medical professionals taking care of medical chores. That was eye opening for me and I was living it, I put more miles on my car going to and from appointments than I did during the same amount of time going back and forth to work. Each trip after surgery was at best uncomfortable, sometimes they were downright painful. I paid dearly for each of those miles.
They don’t understand that you are putting on a brave front when out in public or when people come to your home because you are trying to have some small sense of normal. Nothing is normal during a critical illness. Any time you have a chance to have a normal moment grab it, they are fleeting and very far between.
They don’t understand dealing with a critical illness while on short term disability is a wonderful benefit and a necessary benefit, but it is not a vacation. Not all time away from work is created equally. Just like not all time away from family is created equally. I have had some vacations that were so jam packed with adventures I almost needed a vacation to get over my vacation. I have had some business trips that were so low key and easy it was the next best thing to a vacation without actually being one. The reverse is true for both scenarios.
There has been no part of being on short term disability that I would wish on anyone. Except the surviving part, I wish for all people to survive their critical illness to thrive afterward. Some part of me is glad there are people who just don’t understand. I figure it means they don’t know anyone who is dealing with a critical illness. Certainly they have not dealt with one personally, otherwise they would have some compassion, understanding or empathy. I am sure they don’t mean to be thoughtlessly insensitive, unkind or in some cases just plain cruel. I am sure they are just unaware they being that way, at least I hope so.
The thing about a critical illness is that it happens on many, many planes: there is the physical fight, the emotional toll, the family piece, the spiritual battle, the financial issues, the torn sense of identity and more. When someone tries to suggest that you were on vacation while on short term disability take a deep breath, they are not going to understand at all, if they were capable of understanding, the thought wouldn’t cross their minds let alone speak it aloud.