My best friend is dying.
She’s smart, funny and beautiful. But her size makes her fragile and when I see her lying in the hospital bed, my stomach feels like it’s tied in a knot. Hers actually is.
According to the U.S. Department of Health, there are more than 20 diseases and conditions that get under $10 million of funding for research and testing. These diseases may be overlooked by society due to lack of information or because they are embarrassing to talk about—but they’re still life threatening.
My friend eventually got the courage to tell me that she had Crohn’s disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease. She was so nonchalant I didn’t think anything was wrong. But then she missed one day of school. Then two. Then 20. Next thing I knew, I was visiting her in the hospital. She came back two weeks later like nothing happened. She was as lively, energetic and sharp-witted as usual. I didn’t understand how she could act this way. “You’re a superhero!” I told her.
I took my concerns to Google and searched Crohn’s to find basically nothing. Crohn’s research gets little funding—in fact, its funding dropped more than $10 million between 2012-2013. How many people are dying from illnesses because lifesaving research goes without funding? It seems that if there isn’t a huge media campaign or a celebrity trying to support a disease, then it doesn’t matter.
But my friend matters. This year she had to drop out of college in order to be closer to her doctors. Although she’s struggling, she’s fighting her disease just like Superman would. The Kryptonite can be easily disposed of if we just open our ears and become aware. Then maybe we can be the superheroes.