Monday, November 18, 2013

10 Ways to Thrive through a Major Illness

There is no question that going through a major illness such as cancer, MS, heart disease, or a major surgery is difficult. With some clarity of purpose and some small steps, you can get through it powerfully and even thrive. You can live amidst sickness and fear to come out on the other side strong and joyful. Here are some ways to help you do so:
  1.  Be Grateful. Focus on the good in your life. Rejoice in every comfort, even when the only comfort you have is being able to make it to the bathroom on your own. Rejoice in your bed, your food, the world outside your window. Focus on the good, and there will be more of it.
  2.  Know that this too shall pass. Every day is different. When you find yourself in a particular bad day or patch of days, know within your heart that it is only temporary.
  3.  Accept help. Especially in the beginning of an illness, there may be an outpouring of help-- people willing to come physically over and help you, those who will drop by a casserole, or those who just send a card or e-mail saying they are thinking of you. Take these offerings with gratitude in your heart. Call people up and ask for help. Sometimes people want to help, but don't know what to do. Tell them. A major diagnosis will usually show you who your real friends are.
  4.  Eat. There's nothing that will deplete your strength and energy faster than unnecessary lost weight. If you have trouble eating, work with your doctor until you find a solution. Avoid sugar and chemicals, but otherwise eat well. You may wish to invest in one of those high powered blenders to make healthy smoothies if you have trouble with solid food.
  5.  Rest. A lot. You can't do what you used to do in a day-- your body and mind are busy healing. Allow yourself more rest and sleep than ever before. Feel gratitude for the opportunity, and never, ever feel guilty for making a decision to rest rather than to do something productive.
  6.  Eliminate. Medications can make it difficult to move your bowels daily. Work with your doctor and your diet. You may need more fruits and veggies in your diet, which would be helpful to your energy anyway. This isn't a small issue. With your GI system in line, you will have more energy and will not be stuck at your house for the gotta-go's. Stopped up, and you cannot eliminate the toxins building in your system. Get yourself a stool to put your feet on for BM time, and the positioning will help you eliminate more completely.
  7.  Love your children/spouse/friends/family. Tell them so. Be yourself. You know life is short. You've probably learned something through your experience. Share it. Be their inspiration. Hug them often. Tell them what you've wanted to tell them. Don't put off the things that need to be said.
  8.  As much as possible, do the things you enjoy. Say no to things you think that you houlddo (like a children's birthday party) if the thought makes you tired. If you sing, dance, or paint, save some energy to do at least a little. Learn some gentle exercise, like yoga. Take a walk on a beautiful day. If you can't do these, then find good books to read or re-read, take long baths, and pamper yourself. Get a massage- a massage therapist will come to your house. Get Netflix and watch your favorite programs. Cater to yourself.
  9.  Find your deity. Perhaps you already believe in God, but you can deepen the experience through regular prayer, joyful books, or joining a community of believers. Take comfort in those praying for you. If you do not believe in God, feel in yourself the capacity to love. Give opportunities to your loved ones to nurture you. See the beauty in nature. Be as grateful as you can for all the good in your life. Once you start looking for good things, you inevitably find more.
  10.  Let go and let God. For many of us who like to think we are in control, this is the hardest step. However, if you hand the trouble to God (or the universe), God will find a way to solve it in a way that is beyond what we could have figured out on our own. Don't needlessly worry. Have faith in someone or something that this experience is temporary, and you will come out of it strong and happy.
Living with a major illness is hard. I've done it, so I'm no fool. I am a stage 4 brain cancer Thriver. Getting through something like this can make you feel like a superhero. I went through chemotherapy for over a year, following the above steps as well as I could. I am still happily living my life, and I look forward to the rest of it.

Let me know if I may be of help to you.

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