Update: Case closed

For many who read the solution to the Times’ mystery diagnosis a few weeks ago, something remained amiss. Today, Lisa Sanders insightfully addresses how a patient with such serious symptoms could remain unaware of her condition.

Sarah of Washington wrote: “I’m really confused by the fact that these young women didn’t realize they were weak even though one couldn’t do more than one sit-up and the other couldn’t lift a gallon of milk.” Many readers felt equally bewildered. But Anon from New York wrote about the perceptions of those with chronic diseases: “When you live with your own ‘normal’ (which may be wholly abnormal), you take for granted everyone else feels that way, too. . . . If it is all you have ever known, you can see why it would be something a patient might not mention.” For the parents, it would have taken an enormous leap to imagine that their seemingly healthy daughters could have something seriously wrong with them. Often, what we see in our children defines our understanding of normal. This family, like many who live with chronic diseases, have come to understand that there are at least two kinds of normal — one for them and one for everyone else.

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