Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, overcoming adversity

A Dream and a Nightmare Rolled Into One

What would you do if you worked for something your whole life and your dreams come to an end with no warning? I know it has happened to millions who have been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness, but for one young man, the grace and honor bestowed upon him was amazing.

Isaiah Austin is a young man who was playing basketball for Baylor University. He had everything going his way and was preparing for his big moment when he’d be drafted to an NBA team. Protocol requires each potential draft pick have a physical before being drafted. Teams wouldn’t want to sign a player who would potentially be injured or sick costing them big money. It’s a business decision that obviously, in this case, was sad but potentially life saving.

Anyone diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness has heard the doctor say the famous line, “I’m sorry to tell you, but….”. Austin was no different. He received word that he was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome. Marfan Syndome is a potentially life-threatening illness impacting the body’s connective tissue and often resulting in heart problems such as aortic embolisms.

Everything this young man had worked for came crashing down. In an amazing move on the part of the NBA, they did a ceremonial draft making Austin’s dreams come true. In addition, Austin will be a spokesperson for the Marfan Syndrome Foundation. A t-shirt was designed and available with a very important message, “Dream Again”. I hope Austin is able to embody that message as he makes plans for his future.

Talk about being blindsided, I was working as a case manager for an HIV/AIDS program and a young mother of two came to the office. She was a single mother and had applied for life insurance to take care of her daughters should anything happen to her. What she didn’t expect was to receive a letter from the insurance company telling her she was no insurable because she was HIV+.

This post isn’t about making lemonade out of lemons. It’s about taking the biggest shock of one’s life and re-evaluating your life and the mark you will make on the world. It’s a life defining moment. It’s the moment we all have in our lives when we see what we’re made of and how our purpose will be fulfilled.

I certainly hope that each and every person out there doesn’t come to that realization without being diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness. However, if it does, I hope you will take the time you need to grieve, retreat, and then attack your life with a renewed sense of possibility. I hope you don’t define yourself by your illness, but by your inner strength and that you summon that strength to guide you in your actions and decisions.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness and are looking for education, support, and inspiration, visit

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I've lived my life in service to others. I'm focused on mental health and how it impacts our relationships, culture, and society. Through creative expression and narrative I believe we can impact change.

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