I have always been a traveler. Partially because my Dad was a pilot, and flights were inexpensive in my youth. Mostly though, because I love to explore.
Before I got sick I had visited over half of the places on my “travel bucket list”. At 32 that was a pretty good feat. I’m not sure how many people that age could say the same. In fact, I was so grateful that I had, as traveling with chronic illness became less easy. Not so much the traveling with pain part (though it definitely factored in), but more because I couldn’t work anymore, so no money to explore the world.
These days most of my travel is around the country (New Zealand), to visit friends or take long weekend road trips. Once or twice a year I also go back home to Hawaii to visit the family remaining there. So while I don’t travel as much as I like, I still frequent airports.
No one likes airports, let’s just say that right now. Crowded with people, long security lines, and overpriced mediocre food.
I dislike them even more now that I live with my disease. My pain isn’t usually visible, so I often don’t request wheelchairs when I really should. I push myself to walk the long halls to the gates, each step becoming more crippling, as I ignore the pain tweaks traveling up my spine. People scowl at me when I stop abruptly to stretch my sore limbs, not understanding why someone my age is clutching her back like that of an elder. They don’t understand the stress on my face when I finally get seated, muttering under my breath about the pain. But this has been my life for seven years now, and I’m used to treatment from others. My disease is invisible, and might as well not exist to those rushing past me to get to the gate, like a car speeding up to a red light.
Today I’ve luckily given myself ample time to get to my gate. I woke up with a terrible pain flare in my left knee/fibula. It has me walking with a limp, and I’m cursing myself for not bringing my cane, which sits uselessly in my closet at home. People have pushed past me in a hurry a couple times already, causing a few painful stumbles on my part. I see them now sitting at the same gate as I, annoyed at their rudeness.
In front of me is a wall with “Baggage Claim” posted on a sign with an arrow pointing westward. Amused, I wonder if that’s where I can find my illness insecurities. Perhaps they are making their rounds on the conveyor belt. Perhaps someone else will pick them up by mistake, maybe even take them home so I will be rid of them at last. How fortunate I would be.
I watch a hysterical child run around the gate like she’s been given candy to keep her quiet and it’s backfired. Her parents look tired and uninterested in her antics. As she repeatedly jumps up and down on the bag weigh machine, I pray it stops working so the anxiety of my bag being too heavy is alleviated, despite my knowledge of it being under already.
Airport anxiety + chronic illness = more pain. Hopefully it will cause me to pass out on the plane.