Chronic Illness Patients and Comfort Items

The majority of people I speak to who have a chronic illness usually have at least one or two things that have continuously brought them comfort over the years. Some of those things typically are a piece of clothing, lucky jewelry, stuffed animals, pictures, a blanket, etc.

It is interesting what things we form an emotional bond with and what doesn’t seem to have any significant impact on us. I see kids getting a ton of new toys but for some reason, their chewed up stuffed cat or broken army men are what they gravitate towards. Sometimes, it has to do with the person who gave them the item or the situation in which it was received. (Ex. Was it given as a celebratory gift so the association is a happy one?) For many, there is no particular reason why it is this shirt or this blanket. Something about it internally just feels good having it around.

For me, I have two. Well, three actually. {I do have some other things I like having or using in certain situations but they aren’t anything I am attached to in any way.}

The first one is this stuffed animal.

Had since the year 2000... Patrick the dog.

Had since the year 2000… Patrick the dog.

I call him Patrick because that is the name he is referred to in the world of FAO Schwartz. I have wanted this dog since I was about 9 years old. You know how there are so many times when you are really obsessed with something for a little while but then all of a sudden, the amusement fades? Well with this stuffed dog, it was the opposite. Every time I would pass by the store in the mall, I would just want it even more. So four years later, I finally got my dog!

My amazing friends all pitched in and bought it for me. It was right after my first hospitalization and it made me feel so good and so loved. It just screamed comfort to me. Since the date corresponded with my birthday, I also got the smaller one with the gift certificate my friends gave me. That one was able to come with me to and from the hospital; the other was way too big. A few years later, they came out with a pink one named Penelope who I also have. I leave that one in my house upstate so I know wherever I am, I always have at least one of these stuffed dogs.


The second item is this pillow.


Mine since 2001 :)

Mine since 2001


I got this weird looking animal pillow from my school swim team. I was 14 and I remember reading the card and thinking about how random this stuffed animal was. I started keeping it on my bed because I wanted to be reminded that I was part of my team; regardless if I was able to participate at all that season. After having a lot of procedures and surgeries around that time that made laying down painful, I started realizing how perfect this pillow was. I began using it to prop my legs up while I was recovering from my surgeries. I also had to sleep with multiple drains over the years and this allowed me to feel comfortable laying on my side as the gook (I won’t bore you with medical jargon in this post) was able to come out of me and drain into whatever it was supposed to drain into (again, sparing you the medical talk.)

Every time I was discharged from the hospital and my stomach muscles were so weak, my parents would set me up in my bed and my dad would always put the weird animal pillow under my legs. It gave my stomach a chance to rest.

Holli is resting on the cell phone pillow.

It is behind Holli…

I also have a pillow that looks like a cell phone that I have used a tremendous amount since I got sick. It was given to me by my friend, Ellie, and has been really helpful over the years in terms of experimenting with different positions to lay down and sleep while recovering from surgery. I look at this item a little differently than the other two because I don’t feel attached to it. It doesn’t bring me comfort in the same way. It helps me physically to use a lot of the time but… I just look at it differently. I don’t know.

So these are some of the things I have had over the years that continue to bring me comfort to this day. I have brought at least one of these things with me during every hospitalization. I sometimes held it in the car while heading into the city for a big appointment or surgery. I would leave it in the car since I know I am too old to be walking around with it.


Are you a person with a chronic illness who has things in your life like I mentioned above? Have you noticed your children, spouse, parent, etc become attached to certain things if you are a caregiver? What are some of the things that bring you comfort during the hard times? (Or even just in general) Were the items given to you by a loved one? Did you treat yourself as a reward for getting through so much trauma? Why do you think certain items hold so much significance with us?