amber rahim

Chronic illness: the parts we don't talk about

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39 words for 39 years

Once a year I make a deliberate effort to create something that is more poetry than prose. Why? To challenge myself to do something different. And because I can.

My aim? To mark my birthday by saying something about myself in exactly the number of words that represent my age. Unlike last years creation, the title is not included in the word count this year.

 39 words for 39 years

Post baby body, the changes, the scars,

finally accepted.

Self consciousness dissolving along with my youth,


Committed to my family yet choosing for myself,

guilt free.

Clarity of the soul blossoms though I become fuzzy around the edges


I think this picture sums up my approach to life right now.


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Where’s the line?

This blog is supposed to be my story: what it’s really like, living with chronic illness.
It’s my view as a “patient” myself and my view as a parent to a chronically ill child.
When I write as a parent, where is the line between my story and Fs story?
When things happen to her, they affect the whole family, they happen to us too.

Yet, they happen to her first.
So am I telling her story or mine?

That’s the question on my mind lately. It’s also why I’ve not been blogging so much lately.
Did I drift away from my story to hers? Admittedly, it is so much easier to talk about her pain than my own. That may sound strange; a mother normally feels the pain of her children keenly. And that’s true: when she hurts, I hurt. But there is nothing more sharp than our own pain.
For while we feel bad when they fall and scape their knees, it is only when we fall and scrape our knees that we realise that it burns like a b*tch.

So where’s the line? Oh yeah, back there. Got it.

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Dutched up: Rocking the clogs expat style

Earlier this year I started hanging out with other bloggers on Facebook. It was great to be among other writers, hear their stories and be on this writing journey with them.

Then one day Olga asked if anyone else wanted to contribute a story about living in The Netherlands to their anthology. Never thinking that my story would be accepted, let alone published, I said yes.

So, after a great amount of work by Lynn and Olga in collecting our stories and editing, our book is finished. 27 bloggers contributed and I am one of them. I am so proud of us all for saying yes and making this happen. Thank you NL women bloggers.

I write about chronic illness so my story is related to the Dutch healthcare system. We have stories covering all parts of life as a foreigner here in Dutchland. It’s funny, it’s sweet. It’s all so true. If you have every lived here, know Dutch people or visited, there is something here for you. Please check it out.

Check it out on here

for use this link

for itunes click here

book cover


38 words

I turn 38 this week yet for some reason I have already been thinking that I was 38 for a year now. I rarely feel my actual age (or even act it) and I like this fluid relationship I have with age. It allows me to avoid the “growing older” drama that society and the media tries so very hard to draw us into. I can find my own dramas all by myself so this is one area of my life where I don’t need any help.

So in honour of this occasion I thought I would try to write something about myself in 38 words. I think it only took me 38 seconds to do it so don’t get your hopes up. The point is, I achieved my goal: 38 words.

(for fellow pedants out there, the title is included in the word count and I count “that’s” as one word. What am I revealing about myself?)

My Life in Thirty Eight Words

Little feet, little toes

Bigger boobs and pointy nose.

That’s the way the outside goes.

Fertile soil for a brain,

Plant the seeds, let it rain.

That’s how I come alive again.

ok, you can’t google images for bigger boobs and planting seeds (well, you can but I wouldn’t) and I’m not very good at drawing so here is a Monet that caught my eye.


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What’s it like to get what you want?

Since I started writing this blog I have had great feedback from fellow sufferers and just fellows that I know.  There has been concerned curiosity and growing awareness of the reality of my life.

That was my intention and I am grateful.  So why am I finding excuses not to write?

“I’m tired today, I’ll write tomorrow” or “I have to do the laundry”.  Really? The laundry?

What I have come to realise is that I too am becoming aware of the reality of my life.   It’s not the hardest life on this earth but it is hard.

There is a lot of worry and there is so much to do that I get tired just thinking about it.

Yet how did I not know this?  How was I not aware?  I’m writing about it aren’t I?

I put it down to practicality, self protection and normalcy.

Practicality.  It’s my favourite mindset and perspective.  I just get on and do.  I plan, I act, I adjust the plan when it goes wrong.  I share the workload when I can and just get on with doing.

Self protection.  It hurts to think of my daughter being ill.  It hurts deep in my bones, all the way to the soft squidgy marrow.  I don’t like to stay with the hurt so I don’t.  Have I dealt with the hurt?  Yes.  I have had therapy. I’ve contemplated life, the universe and everything.  I know the answer is 42.  But that is the old hurt.  Every now and then there is new hurt.  Experienced by me as I am today, the person I am now, at 37.  Not the me of age 31, when all this started.

I have examined my faith in god and how can such a thing exist in the world.   The only answer I have to that is this: it just does.

I don’t feel guilt.  It’s a genetic illness inherited when both parents happen to be carriers and then only if the both sides pass on the mutated gene (25% chance of that, by the way).  It’s not my fault.

I don’t feel anger at god, at the world or at my husband for daring to carry the same defect as me.

I don’t dwell on how this could happen.  It is.

But there is nothing in this world that will make me feel ok with either of my children being in pain.  I’m not ok with it.  So I move away from it in self protection and for something more.  There is so much more in my life that I do not need to stay here.  It’s just a place to visit.

Normalcy.  This is normal for me.  Medicines, hospitals, constant monitoring for signs of an impending catastrophe.  This has been a dominant part of my life for 6 years so it is just “my life”.

Who thinks about the small details of their lives?

Well, a blog writer does.  So I guess you could say I have been hoist by my own petard.

(I just need to add that I love this phrase!  I have done ever since I first heard it as a child and now I finally get to use it.  Hmm, maybe I should have fallen in love with the phrase “richer than creosus”?)

Writing this post has brought me to this realisation: it’s not until we take a step back from our lives that we actually see what are lives are like.  You can’t see the wood for the trees.  So I invite you to join me and take a step back and look.

What do you see?

I see that my life may be hard, but it is also beautiful.  Deep down, I didn’t just want to share, I also wanted something for myself.   To see this:

Sometimes the beauty of my life is cold and bright like a crisp, sunny winters morning.

Sometimes that beauty is warm and comforting like a hot water bottle and a blanket.

And sometimes, that beauty is rough like a storm that buffets me around, battering at me, until finally it stops and in that calm there is satisfaction in knowing that I held on.  I am still here.  My life is beautiful.


The other side of being

I am writing a book and I am stuck.  I want to write about the good, the experiences that keep me going.  Yet every time I sit down to write about these, my mind goes blank.

It is so easy to write about the hard stuff, the painful moments.

I know there have been good moments, achievements big and small, moments that make it all worthwhile and still, it’s like I am frozen.  Unable to even remember them, let alone describe them.  I pick up my pen and nothing.  It is like someone presses pause on my remote control and I haven’t seen this film before so I don’t know what comes next.

So I have been looking for inspiration, a way to unlock those good memories.  I told myself “don’t force it, allow yourself to wander along memory lane and it will come”.  Time has been passing.

Then yesterday my daughter asked me “zullen we een wandeling maken?”  Shall we go for a walk?

It was 6:45pm and she goes to bed at 7:30pm.  It’s a school night and I should have said no but I didn’t.

We put on our coats, grabbed a torch and went outside.

It was drizzly and we talked about the weather.  She thought gloves and a balaclava would be handy considering how cold it was.

She was happy that she had a hood on her coat to pull up and keep her warm and was concerned that I didn’t.

She held my hand to make me feel safe in the dark.


I’m still struggling to find words to describe this good feeling but it was good.  Maybe it was the absence of worry.  Maybe it was the simplicity.  Maybe it was the “being”.  We didn’t “do” much, just went around the block.  It wasn’t an adventure and it wouldn’t be on any child’s christmas list but we did it together.  We were.

We walked, we talked, we held hands.  We came home with the satisfaction of a job well done, with a feeling that all was right with the world.  And it was.

I’m not going to try and write about it anymore.  I just want to enjoy it.  Maybe if I let myself just feel for long enough, the words will come.