My heroine is seriously ill with something that can sooner or later take her life away at any moment. She takes medication regularly but refuses to undergo anything hardcore (like surgery or chemo or anything that would make her better or cure her for good). I have not figured out what or where the kind of illness she has yet since i am not a certified doctor with enough knowledge about the human body but i do want to be specific when it comes to symptoms or medication and its side effects.

I also don't know how much that illness should effect her daily life. She's an intelligent teacher with exceptional understanding and memory. She is swamped with work and responsibilities that don't often involve her career as a teacher but it also greatly affects her health.

She's rich, so money isn't an issue. She just thinks that she should live her life to the most instead of undergoing harsh treatments and so.

Is there any type of illness (that preferably includes attacks such as asthma) that hinders someone's day to day life but not as much as staying to bed all day and is curable under extreme medication? (Cancer is out since she has to work everyday for being a teacher and other tiring stuff)

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    One possibility: Simply avoid the medical details. She has a serious illness. Most of the time, she can function OK, but occasionally she has attacks. She gets medical treatment, but it merely manages the symptoms. We really do not need to know the details, or the name of the disease. Perfectly credible without the details.
    – user23046
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 13:05

2 Answers 2


You could google your character's symptoms and see what shows up!


Does it have to be an existing illness?

It could be a realistic but fictional illness with the symptoms you "need" for the story to come together..

"She suffers from Mil-Ether-Kafosis. It's a mutation of the well known disease Ether-Kafosis, also referred to as 'Asthma' - though that has always been a misunderstanding." the certified doctor said, with no-one questioning the authenticity of the mentioned illness.

Since you are not a certified doctor, and unless your taget audience is 'certified doctors', is it really important if it is a real illness, or is it simply a tool for the story to play out the way you need it to?

You should probably still do some research, no matter what illness you find suitable.

I've enjoyed stories about various characters with illnesses and simply followed how the illness affected the story and characters, without needing to believe that the illness actually existed.

If you are not aiming for a "Raise awareness for x illness" kind of story, in my opinion, the specific illness simply needs to be believable. And we, as the audience for a story, will believe a lot.

If the story's already fictional, why not tailor it to suit your need?

I suppose it could draw unwanted attention towards the illness itself, which could be an issue if you're simply going for an "illness that fits". For instance, I have a character who's father is (or was) ill, and the illness itself is not important, but rather how it affected the people around him, mainly the main character.

So, if you 'invent' an illness, people may focus too much on the illness, rather than the part it plays in the story. This of course has everything to do with how your write the illness into the story and how relatable or realistic said illness is.

In my case, I just feel that 'cancer' would be too cliché.

Perhaps worth mentioning: My own work so far is science-fiction, so I'm sorry if I'm pushing your work into that genre.

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    Not at all, thank you. That was what I was going for in the beginning but I was just too wary that it wouldn't be believable enough. I mean, I've read a lot of stuff which involved clearly fake illnesses and diseases that made me cringe even with the minimal knowledge I have about the human body. I have tried to Google it but many of the symptoms clash with each other (or are simply cured by a couple of pills, which is not what I'm going for) so if I'm left with no other alternatives I'll try to eliminate some of them so as to at least make it realistic. Or just combine two similar illnesses.
    – J. Roberts
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 11:54
  • I would say that 'the clash of symptoms' (I like those words together) is an advantage in your case, only making it more believable that the illness you are writing about could exist. Also, doctors find mutations of known deceases and illnesses all the time, so this is a plausible approach. Knowing this, and the clash of symptoms, and adding a simple but believable "definition" would be enough for me. I would say I also belong to the more critical group of people when introduced to fictional concepts, but only when they cannot be accepted with the logic or explanation within the story.
    – storbror
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 12:04
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    I guess having one or two clashes of symptoms (I like them too) is okay once in a while. I'll try coming up with a plausible excuse or definition with what I have since that's my best answer. Anyway thank you so much for your time. You've given me confidence to play more with the cards I have.
    – J. Roberts
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 12:09

If you can't find a specific illness, make one up.

The beauty of writing fiction is that it's imaginary. As long as something is believable, it works. I've seen characters that work and stress themselves so much - that they frequently run the recurring motif of having explosive nosebleeds. There are other characters that have made up extreme conditions that play to the plot.

Personally, I prefer writing ideas to the plot I've defined, and only using real life research as an anchor to keep realism in check.

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