November 25th, 2018

Does Experiencing Childhood Illness Make Someone Stronger? How One Person Turned Adversity into Remarkable Success

Source: CDC (1990).

Many people growing up with chronic illness become resilient.

Whether it’s Crohn’s Disease, or cystic fibrosis, or diabetes, or the sequelae of an accident, or whatever condition they have, they impressively live their life just like the rest of us — occasionally regressing or slowing down only during a flare of the illness.

But then there’s an extreme version of this resilience — people born with or acquiring severe illness as a child, and somehow not just surviving, but thriving.

Their medical problems are just a small bump in the road as they go from one success to another, each achievement more remarkable given what they’ve had to go through to make this success happen.

The easy interpretation is that all the hardships they’ve endured make them stronger — but it must go beyond that, since most of us mere mortals would respond in no such way.

Dr. Eric Winer, who runs the breast cancer program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, is an example of this remarkable group. He kindly agreed to tell his story for a podcast on Open Forum Infectious Disease.

(It’s also available on iTunes, and Overcast; we’re working on Stitcher.)

He talks about growing up with hemophilia, and HIV, and hepatitis C, and how this influenced his career and family life. (Quick answer — both hardly at all, and more than most could possibly understand. That’s a theme here.)

The medical and personal details are fascinating, and not just to ID and hematology-oncology doctors.

Has he been extraordinarily lucky, or terribly unlucky?

The answer, again, is both — listen and find out.

3 Responses to “Does Experiencing Childhood Illness Make Someone Stronger? How One Person Turned Adversity into Remarkable Success”

  1. John Cascone says:

    “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls, the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
    Khalil Gibran

  2. M. Gong says:

    The interview with Dr. Winer was very powerful. It speaks to the resiliency and ability of the human spirit to make a difference.

  3. Jean Bell says:

    Thanks for sharing !

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HIV Information: Author Paul Sax, M.D.

Paul E. Sax, MD

Contributing Editor

NEJM Journal Watch
Infectious Diseases

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