Do you live with a chronic illness? Maybe you have asthma, allergies, or
migraine headaches. Or perhaps you or your best friend has diabetes, arthritis,
or cancer. Each day, thousands of teens across America are diagnosed with
chronic illnesses -- long-term health problems they live with 24/7.
There's often no "cure" for chronic illnesses. Still, with new breakthroughs
in treatment, most teens can live active, fulfilling lives. How? By maintaining
good lifestyle habits, taking the prescribed medications or treatment, and
seeing your doctor regularly to monitor your health.
Amanda (not her real name) was feeling overwhelmed. Her parents were preoccupied with financial worries. Her algebra teacher had assigned tons of homework. And her best friend was not speaking to her because of a fight they had a couple of days earlier. Amanda felt alone and afraid. After a particularly tough algebra exam, she felt her world was caving in. She ran into a stall in the girls' bathroom, rolled up her sleeve, and cut her left arm as hard as she could with her nails. She drew blood, but...
According to internist Harris McIlwain, MD, coach of the Tampa Bay Spirit
boys' soccer team, many active teens have health problems today. McIlwain says
that several of his players have asthma and use their inhalers before and
during the aerobic soccer games. He has also coached teen soccer players with
diabetes in the past.
"If you understand your illness," McIlwain says, "and follow your doctor's
instructions to manage the symptoms, you should be able to do the things you
want to do and enjoy your friends and sports."
Half the problem of living with a chronic illness can be telling your
friends that you have asthma, diabetes, or cancer. While the fear factor is
normal, it can be extra tough when you're a teen. After all, not only is your
body stretching and your hormones exploding, chronic illness feels like another
Teens Rock On
Gary and Rob are both members of the popular Atlanta-based rock band, Ethan
and the Ewox. As well-known musicians they play more than 250 shows a year,
often traveling all night to get to the next town. Would it surprise you to
learn that both Gary and Rob have lived with chronic illnesses most of their
Gary, the drummer for the band, was diagnosed with Type I, or juvenile,
diabetes as a young teen. Type I diabetes is an insulin-dependent form of
diabetes. Insulin is the body hormone that regulates sugar metabolism. This
means Gary must prick his finger more than six times a day -- even on tour --
to check his blood sugar. Once he gets his blood sugar level, he injects
himself with the necessary dose of insulin. He takes injections several times
each day to assure that his body's insulin level is normal (yes, we're talking
needles and shots).