Good health is an incredible, but largely undervalued, gift. People take it for granted. Only when a serious illness strikes do we recognize how valuable it is to feel well, to be strong and healthy. To not need doctors, hospitals or tests. But by then it’s usually too late.
A chronic illness shows no mercy to anyone or anything. It takes over your day-to-day activities with dizzying speed, Not only do you feel awful, helpless… but you’re utterly dependent on others for things you used to do on your own. Any pride you had is long gone, illness is all about indignity.
How you’re feeling has become something you pay attention to; something you plan around, something that limits you in a way you don’t like. You spend time in doctor’s offices and scanners, you take medication and wait for results. Maybe you try to gain some sense of control by learning all you can about your condition, maybe you act like it doesn’t exist, refusing to acknowledge what is obvious fact.
Whatever you do, illness isn’t about to give ground. If taking over your daily life, your plans and thoughts wasn’t enough, changing the way you look — and not in a good way — is another bit of suffering for you (as if you haven’t had enough). Often this keeps you isolated because you don’t want to let people see you in such a state.
Maybe you don’t have the energy to get yourself “presentable”, what you look like just can’t be a priority — every bit of energy must be used in the fight for health.
Even when you do go out, you’ll find illness has taken hold here too, becoming a natural topic of conversation for those who care about you. They want to know how you’re doing — spare them the gory details. Save those for your nurse, who is more likely to appreciate them.
Which brings up another area where illness leaves you utterly vulnerable. Illness puts you at the mercy of many healthcare professionals at a time when you are not at your best. Some of these people are caring and wonderful — the best people you could ever meet. Some are new and still learning, without experience or bedside manner. Some are just plain awful. I’ve written before about timing in life, and here’s another example of when it really, truly matters.
So much of your care is in another’s hands… it’s up to you (or those responsible for your care) to be sure those hands are the right ones, with access to solid research and the latest technology, but who have not forgotten every patient is a person… a living, breathing, suffering person.
A patient who, because of illness, now has limited treatment options. There are things medicine might do for a healthy body that yours just can’t tolerate. Doctors are working with a body already weakened by one ongoing battle, so when some other calamity comes along things can get… dicey. How often does it happen that it’s not the initial illness, but something else, that gets people?
All this is more reason to do what you can, while you can, to stay healthy.