Invisible illnesses: debilitating, yet unseen symptoms

Heather Voll, Editor

Invisible illnesses are just what they sound like: an illness that a person has, but it can not be known by just looking at them. Invisible illnesses are issues such as food allergies, lyme disease, and digestive issues. D. C. Everest senior Natalie Levy is just one of many people in the world to suffer from an invisible disease. Levy suffers from ulcerative colitis which is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract.

  “My immune system didn’t recognize my colon as part of my body, it recognized it as a foreign body so it just attacked it and created a bunch of inflammation,” said Levy. “There are some people that can be controlled on anti-inflammatory medications. I had a pretty severe form of it so I had to get my entire large intestine removed and then have some reconstructive surgeries so I could live semi-normally again.”

  Having a disease and side effects that require a lot of attention and care, Levy has been forced to miss school quite often.

  “I think that self-advocacy is the biggest thing, because the more you tell people and the clearer you are with them, the more they understand you and the more they’re willing to do for you,” said Levy. “That’s kind of how I’ve gotten to where I am, is just because I’m honest and I don’t hold back when it comes to expressing my needs. I still stay on top of all my work, I mean that’s what makes it so great, is because my teachers trust me.”

  Along with having a disease that is not apparent to the eye, there are many misconceptions that Levy, and others who suffer from invisible illnesses deal with.

   “I had to come to this [dance] competition because I couldn’t survive left at home alone, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t do anything. I ran into an old dance teacher and she said “you look so good, you must be feeling great,” and that was actually the moment I had been at my lowest in my disease, I was about a week out from getting an emergency surgery,” said Levy.

  Levy is unsure what the future holds for her and her disease as she moves away from home next year.

  “With moving away from home and everything, I’ve tried to adjust my life in ways that maybe it’ll be better in the future. I’m going to move to a place with a warmer climate, which my immune system gets really bad during the winter so I just figured that somewhere the seasons are less severe, maybe the better mine [immune system] will be. I have really understanding doctors that are going to help me find a new doctor out of town,” said Levy.

  Levy has had her disease for five years, and is not in remission yet.