Thursday, July 4, 2013

Embrace Your Health

Once you have been in the debilitating throws of cancer, you look at people struggling with health issues in a new light.

The person tooling around in a motorized wheelchair tethered to an oxygen tank reminds me of when I was too weak to go grocery shopping. I had to jump into a wheeled cart with a basket--compliments of Stop & Shop.

I can spot women undergoing chemotherapy a mile away. I recognize their pale faces void of eyelashes and eyebrows, with hair on their heads that doesn't look quite right. I am tempted to approach these women to assure them that I was where they are and everything turned out all right. If it's in the right place and seems appropriate, sometimes I do.

I remember standing at a jewelry counter clad in my synthetic wig wearing too much makeup to mask the pallor of my face. The salesperson behind the counter had the courage to say: "You are sick aren't you?" I just nodded but felt grateful the elephant in the room was acknowledged. Then she reached out to hold my hand and said: God is watching out for you and you will be fine." I felt tears welling up in my eyes, but just nodded once again, and thanked her.

Now a member of my family is struggling desperately with their health. I realize I cannot heal them, I can't take away their frustration or their pain. But I can get them food, mow their lawn and take out the garbage. I can create as much normalcy in their life as possible.

I know--from experience--that just that alone can ease the experience of ill health. Life is hard enough. When it is a struggle to accomplish the most basic things--make a meal, clean a countertop, go to the store--you don't even want to get out of bed.

Every time I hoist a heavy piece of furniture and carry it up a flight of stairs, I am reminded that once I couldn't do this, but now I can. Once I was sick. Now I'm not. How fantastic is that?

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