Come On, Get Happy: Life with a Chronic Illness

Howdy friends! Been getting your adventure on? You can bet I have. I wanted to get this next post up before I hit the road of life again, and here it is!

Last time out I started sharing my thoughts about what it takes to live a good life with a chronic illness. Yes, it can be done, even on those days when you feel like the world is kicking you to the curb. For sure, it kind of sucks, and some days will be worse than others, but it can suck a lot less if you go about it the right way.

In my introductory post I laid out some ground rules:

1) Get the best medical care possible

2) Seek no sympathy

3) Find new ways to do what you love

4) Find new things to love

5) Surround yourself with positivity

6) Don’t let your illness define you

Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Right. And pretty easy? That’s where you’re wrong. All of these points take time and patience and the ability (and willingness) to make good decisions. Some of the choices you’ll be faced with will also be tough. Maybe you’ll need to end relationships or change jobs or stop doing things you’ve always done. The focus is you, not anyone else. This is hard for those who are used to always taking care of others. This time it’s about you, and your ultimate happiness. Look at it this way: you’re already sacrificing enough by leading a life that may consist of pain, appointments, and missing out on fun that you once had. Why give up more?

Getting the best medical care possible is my first suggestion, and was covered in my first post. Rather than rehash it, click here to read about point number one.

Which brings us to point number two: Seek no sympathy. Social media is full of individuals with no self-esteem who look to their “friends” to build them up. Don’t be one of them. One of the things I dreaded most when I first got my diagnosis was what others were going to say to me or about me. This has nothing to do with whether your friends and acquaintances understand and “like” you or not. It’s not about how your hair looks or what clothes you’re wearing and whether they’re envious of you or you’re envious of them. You shouldn’t care about any of that anymore; you have much bigger fish to fry now. It’s about what they think of you knowing you have this new “thing” that is suddenly part of your life. Chances are good that they’re going to come at you with sympathy because of this terrible luck that has befallen you. How do you think you’re going to handle puppy dog eyes? Tears? Your name with the word “poor” in front of it? And what will you get out of it? Will you feel better? I headed my sympathizers off at the pass by announcing my expected diagnosis before I even got it. This likely helped me to acknowledge what was happening to me as well. I’ve come a heck of a long way since. Whether the people around me have gotten as far as I have is a matter of opinion. You’d have to ask them. But I warned them about how I wanted to be treated. I’ve spent the time since my diagnosis (inching closer to two years now) trying to figure out how to continue to be ME again, while so many others have spent the time trying to make me be someone else. Be it a hero or a disease-ridden ogre, it hardly matters. I used to be one of US, now I’m one of THEM. No matter what I do, no one lets me forget it: I’m “different.” And for that, I need sympathy. Sobbing. Words for “warriors” like, “You got this.” Assumptions that I’m “suffering” (I’m not) and that I’m some kind of superhero (I’m not.) Shrug it off or defend yourself against it. You don’t need it.

Once again, every image here was taken post diagnosis.

As previously mentioned, I’m getting ready to get out of Massachusetts. By the time you read this I’ll be on my way to the land of record hot temperatures and no more face masks. (I’ll still be wearing mine when necessary.) California, of course! With some Nevada thrown in for good measure. A colorful trip that will warrant at least one post, if not more. So forgive me ahead of time if my next piece of writing leaves the above conversation hanging! I promise to be back soon with point number three, Find new ways to do what you love. Meanwhile, I’m going to do just that!

Happy Summer! Adventure on!

Author: barblee

Barb Lee is a native of Western Massachusetts who loves to write, travel and hike the world, and hang out with her beautiful Jersey Wooly bunny Muffin. Her whole life changed when she was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in October of 2019. By January of 2020, she was bouncing back in a major way. Now, in addition to all her favorite activities, she wants to help others make the most of life following a devastating diagnosis, while she continues to beat the odds.

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