Gordon and Nanjiani co-wrote The Big Sick, a movie about her chronic illness
If you’re familiar with the critically-acclaimed movie The Big Sick, then you probably know it’s based on the real-life relationship between actor and comedian Kumail Nanjiani and writer Emily V. Gordon — and Gordon’s struggle with a rare, life-threatening illness.
Nanjiani recently shared some emotional tweets about the experience, prompted by finding a memento of Gordon’s initial hospital stay. Go ahead and grab yourself a tissue, we’ll wait.
Emily's mom just found this. I'd given her my phone number when she first came to the hospital when Emily got sick in case she needed to contact me. Wrote it on the back of the visitor badge.
She still has it.
Certain objects have the power to pull you back. Wow. pic.twitter.com/kptIxbFTfo
— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) January 8, 2018
Nanjiani played the role of himself in The Big Sick, which documents the early days of his relationship with Gordon as she’s diagnosed with adult-onset Still’s disease, an extremely rare form of arthritis that can shut down the body’s vital organs and lead to death.
I hadn't seen this in 10 years. Probably not since that first day with her mom. Looking at it, I got pulled right back into that moment. And the strongest feeling I felt was this kind of fearful floating. Emily's condition & disease at that point felt so big & unknowable.— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) January 8, 2018
The extreme fear & not knowing & the vagueness of it all created a bubble. And you just kinda float around in this bubble. Everything you see is through this bubble. I remember going to Walgreens & getting angry at someone just buying gum. Why do you get to live a normal life?— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) January 8, 2018
Anyone who’s experienced personal trauma can relate to this incredibly earnest, spot-on tweet. You’re trapped in your own bubble of god-awful grief and feel outraged by everyone who is seemingly very happily going about their life.
And you expend so much energy to not think about the one thing that's unthinkable. So much of your entire being is spent trying to not think of the worst case scenario. And every day was a new theory on what it was. I remember the day they thought it was leukemia.— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) January 8, 2018
I had a family member who had passed away from that disease. And the doctor just said it nonchalantly & walked out. I thought "Well if it is that, at least we'll get to talk to her again. Her parents will get to say goodbye." That was an actual thought I had. Oof.— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) January 8, 2018
Ugh. So heartbreaking.
Just eight months into dating, Gordon became incredibly sick and was placed in a medically-induced coma. The Big Sick shows Nanjiani and Gordon’s parents as they struggle to cope with doctors, an unknown diagnosis, and cultural challenges between Nanjiani, who is Pakistani, and Gordon’s American family. At one point, Gordon’s organs began shutting down.
I played Mario in the waiting room for days on end, & couldn't hear the sound of him collecting coins for years after that. I remember thinking how unfair it was. And Emily is always so full of life & fills a room with her energy & seeing her like that felt vulgar.— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) January 8, 2018
It's still the longest we've gone without speaking since the day we met. Ok. I gotta stop. This is too much. But I'll just say, her disease felt so unknowable & now it's this thing we know. We still deal with it, but it has a name & that is so important for us.— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) January 8, 2018
I'm proud of her for being open about it & for sharing her story with people. I think sometimes people feel shame for having a disease or condition. But they shouldn't. It's not your fault. She's dealt with it by talking to ppl about it, & ppl have talked to her about theirs.— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) January 8, 2018
Sorry. Didn't mean to type all this. I don't know what happened. I was just staring at that picture & couldn't stop. There's no larger point here. I'm glad she fought so hard. I'm proud of her for being strong. That's all.— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) January 8, 2018
No one should feel shame about circumstances beyond their control, especially surrounding their health. The fact that Gordon shared her story in The Big Sick is so valuable to anyone struggling with illness themselves, or those struggling to understand and cope with a sick loved one.
Nanjiani’s Twitter thread seemed to resonate with many.
This is perfect. My husband was diagnosed with MS a few months after we met. I had so many of those "why do YOU get a normal life" moments (still do sometimes). But yeah, it's not who he is -- just something we deal with.— shauna (@goldengateblond) January 8, 2018
I was sick for more than 1/2 my life. Deathbed sick. Had to write a will while my heart was failing sick. It took me 8 years of perfect health to become ok with talking about it because I felt weak/guilty. This thread is fantastic. This movie is fantastic. @kumailn is fantastic. https://t.co/jukkNDr1je— The Sassiest Semite (@LittleMissLizz) January 8, 2018
Best statement I’ve seen in a long time by a person who’s in love with someone with a serious/chronic/long-term illness. This is legit unconditional love - rare, scary, beautiful & exceptional. Makes me tear up. Hope they take you up on it Rosie! Loved you on Stern!— Michelle A (@TweetMichelleA) January 9, 2018
I carry a card from our pediatrician she gave me the day my 15 month old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. It is her home number so I can call anytime. My daughter is now a freshman in college. Thankful for the constant reminder of the fear, hope and love in our lives.— Lynn Smith (@islanddynamo) January 9, 2018
Nanjiani ended his thread with an important lesson, no doubt one we could all benefit from being reminded of in terms of chronic illness and the lives and families it touches.
Her condition is part of her, but it's not all of her. It doesn't define her. But it's something we'll deal with for the rest of our lives. And that's ok. Whew. I'm really done now.— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) January 8, 2018