Chronic Illness

This post was written by CHC member Erin Howes.

Series: Goals of Service

Erin serves at Centro de Salud Esperanza as the Diabetes Care Coordinator.



As young people, we tend to find ourselves invincible. As a young adult, my gym membership, an interest in nutrition, and reliable insurance were my ideas of what it means to be healthy. I visit my doctor, I take my vitamins, and I listen to my mom repeating Dr. Oz’s most recent advice. In recent years however, my life has been affected by the often forgotten chronic illness. Chronic illnesses are neither caught nor passed on. But what’s worse, they are incurable and often unpreventable.

When I began a relationship with my boyfriend, Kevin, five years ago, I had no idea how different our relationship would be than others. As a person with Type 1 Diabetes, Kevin does not receive treatment. He receives life support in the form of insulin. He competes in athletic events, pursues a master’s degree, and cheers against any team playing the Blackhawks. But he also pricks his finger ten times a day, injects countless shots of insulin, and deals with unexpected hospital visits from uncontrolled blood sugar levels.

Kevin and I feel blessed to have insurance, nurses and doctors handing out materials during every visit, and a vehicle so that he can see an educator, a podiatrist, and an ophthalmologist in the same week. But chronic illness does not discriminate.

I have a special perspective as a caretaker rather than a diagnosed patient. Using Kevin’s outstanding example, I wanted to serve as a Chicago Health Corps member to ensure that others received the same components of care that have helped Kevin thrive. I want to help patients see a stronger and happier version of themselves. I want patients to do the best with what they are given today.  With Kevin as my motivation, I want to provide the resources and support necessary for healthy change and outcomes because I have seen how possible and realistic it is to live with a chronic illness rather than suffer from one.