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Talking About Chronic Illness: What Loved Ones Need to Know

“I tried to make the conversation as easy on her as possible.”

One of the reasons April Christina became an advocate for women with endometriosis is that she knows firsthand how difficult it can be to talk about living with a chronic illness. “There are very vulnerable and transparent [and] intimate details that at times [are] very embarrassing to share with other people,” she says.

Like many women with endometriosis, April suffered from endo symptoms for nearly a decade before getting an accurate diagnosis. After initially struggling to accept the news and deal with the condition, she decided to embrace her illness. Today, she’s an endometriosis advocate and blogger who lives her life with optimism and purpose.

One of the things April encourages other people with chronic illnesses to do is to open up about their symptoms and not suffer quietly. She had to put this to the test when meeting her now husband, Greg.

“I met Greg when I was well into my journey with endometriosis,” April recalls. “Every time we had a date or [were] supposed to go out, I was in the emergency room. I would tell Greg either that I was working late, I was tired, I didn’t feel good, and we had to reschedule our date.”

But April clarifies that she wasn’t afraid or ashamed of telling Greg about her endometriosis. She just understood the gravity of that information, and was waiting for the right time to let him know. After all, talking about endometriosis would mean talking about cramps, periods, and fertility—not exactly a conversation for a first date.

Supporting a Partner: How Greg Made It Easier

Little did she know, Greg already knew about her endometriosis. “I kind of saw on her Facebook page something about it,” he admits. But instead of confronting her, he waited, so she could tell him when she was ready. 

In the meantime, Greg dove into research, learning the facts and myths about endometriosis. He even created a “cheat sheet” about endometriosis on his phone. “By the time we actually had a conversation about it, I already felt myself as an expert in the field,” jokes Greg. “When we talked, I would seem knowledgeable about it, and I tried to make the conversation as easy on her as possible.”

Greg may have had the advantage of knowing about April’s diagnosis ahead of time (thanks, social media), but no matter when you find out about a loved one’s diagnosis, learning about what they’re going through is always a good idea. Knowing the basics of your loved one’s condition can help them feel more understood, and it can help you provide better and more effective support.

For more tips on supporting someone with a chronic condition, find out why Greg and April prioritize mental health as a couple.

Duration: 1:39. Last Updated On: Oct. 18, 2019, 8:38 p.m.
Reviewed by: Preeti Parikh, MD . Review date: Oct. 16, 2019
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