Chronic Illness provides the Perspective to Persevere

“Perspective” is the wisdom you can only obtain after having lived through challenging times.  Much like a college degree, you can’t buy it, you must earn it.  Although, if it were a commodity, people would be wise to stockpile it, to avoid the pain and anguish life often dishes out as its way of letting you know that the world is bigger than just you and your problems.  Based on my experiences with Crohn’s Disease and Chronic Illness, short of being able to purchase Perspective, I’ve learned a person must embrace it along the way like putting a “Perspective Deposit” in the bank for when it is sorely needed later on in life.  People ask me, “How do you cope?” Well, now you know.

At 49 years of age, 30 years of which were often accompanied with Crohn’s Disease challenges, I’ve had many opportunities to gain Perspective.  Thankfully, I’ve taken advantage of every one.  For example, during six (6) weeks alone at The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, I clung to my iPod and the familiar Bill Simmons “Sports Guy” Podcast like it was my lifeline.  After my first Crohn’s surgery when I had to run out of the hospital room to wait on a LONG line at a coed bathroom with the rest of the gastroenterology floor seeking a time-slot in the ONLY bathroom on the floor, I tried to remember every detail for the book I would eventually write that would land me on NBC’s “Today Show.”  Then one of my friends “respectfully” revealed he had to stop visiting me because he couldn’t listen to patients walking the hallway asking each other the most effective way to fart so they could start eating.  I laughed until my fresh abdominal wound started to burst open.  My Dad held my hand as we laughed because it was surreal and I think he wanted to make sure we were both living in reality; albeit a very strange one.  Talk about pain and pleasure.  But somehow I got through it all and the reward for survival or perseverance was Perspective.

I’d like to think it’s because of my Perspective that I still have devoted and interested friends.  I’m more interested in hearing about their lives and the lives of their children than complaining about how my health insurance company limits pain medications to simply the number of pills with no account for dosage level whatsoever.  Such a narcotic drug policy could only be devised by a Formulary consultant who is a retired prison doctor but by the time I’d make my friend laugh, I’d miss out on a wonderful story about his 8-year old leading his basketball team to last-minute victory.  Perspective has taught me to listen to the good, survive the bad and laugh at the absurd, even if I’m laughing alone.  I never thought I’d have an audience for these thoughts but thanks to this Blog and other health care social media platforms, I am blessed to have engaged, thoughtful people from around the world, who help me, as much as they say, I help them, when they read what I write.

It’s almost strange to say but I feel as if my Crohn’s Disease gives me a “super power” of sorts and with that comes a responsibility to help others and a Perspective to seriously appreciate the beauty of life, even when it’s not first apparent.  To that end, my first of four nephews got married last Saturday night at the age of 26 to the “girl” he first dated in grade school when he was 13!  She was SO CUTE back then and she’s even more BEAUTIFUL now.  I love my nephew and, objectively, I’d have to admit that he’s a great lookin’ kid with outstanding values, but I always thought he “out-kicked his coverage” when it came to possibly marrying this gorgeous woman, who has also developed into an even prettier person.  But over the years I watched them interact and I’d never seen 2 people more in tune with one another.  I’d never been around 2 people who make the best in each other, twice as good, and the worst, half as bad.  So the pure joy of being there to see them finally get married was such a “hopeful” moment for everyone in attendance.  It was romantic, poetic and fun.  I took mental note of the genuine happiness, which was palpable and dominant the entire evening.

Only a day prior to their wedding, the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut took place.  I don’t know how I would process such a tragedy if I were directly affected by that life-changing event but I do know how my heart still aches for all involved.  From the images likely seen by the 1st Responders to the sheer fright the young children must have felt just before they perished, my Perspective is not helping me move forward this time.  That worries me.  But maybe that’s the point.  Maybe the lesson sometimes is that there is no lesson and the only hope is that something good, at some point, can come out of this very dark day in our Nation’s history.

That something good, I pray, is changes to laws adding severe restrictions on civilian access to Assault Weapons and to military-grade bullet canisters.  We will never cut down on mentally ill people doing unspeakable and inexplicable things and guns will always have a prominent place with different people in a modern day society comprised of diverse cultures but we owe it to those innocent children and brave teachers, teaching assistants, school psychologist, principal and Mom in Newtown, Connecticut to do SOMETHING.  Perspective tells me that we will accomplish this despite the suggestion of engaging in a pseudo civilian arms-race by the National Rifle Association (“NRA”), which today held a “major” press conference to “contribute” and finally commented on this tragedy by suggesting a 1950s solution to a 2013 problem.  The lack of Perspective in the NRA’s approach has me very depressed and I imagine prompted me to write this Blog Entry just so I could share the incredible joyous feeling of my nephew’s wedding to help diffuse the pain of others who struggle every day with such serious chronic illnesses that they needn’t have to worry about politics when it comes to making civilian life safe.

As a democratic Nation of free people, we nevertheless regulate motor vehicle speed limits, littering, driving, fireworks and thankfully, marriage.  Had I not been invited to attend the wedding nuptials of my nephew, I may never have eased the heartache I felt from the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy.  But Perspective drove me to do something to make me smile and appreciate the joy and beauty of life.  In that regard, nothing was going to stop me from enjoying watching my 26-year old nephew marry his beautiful bride, whom he first met when she was also 13, and to whom he’s been romantically involved ever since.  Celebrating that cinematic-style story and witnessing its culmination was extraordinary.  Now, I only hope this real-life wedding story does for you, what it did for me.

So, you see, in a very strange way, I have my Crohn’s Disease to thank for teaching me to always maintain my Perspective.  Good Health, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all.

4 responses to “Chronic Illness provides the Perspective to Persevere

  1. I am inspired by your story because I have had ulcerative colitis since I was 11 years old. But back then I was cared for by md that didn’t even know what the name for the constant bloody diareaha that I was experiencing at the time. He called it internal hemroids and I was left with severe pain and vomiting because of it for years until I went to nursing school and begged to be scoped to see what the problem was. I am now at the Cleveland clinic and proud to say I will be graduating as a nurse practicioner next year in adult medicine. I am also participating in research for chroma and colitis at ccf with my dr and will continue as long as I can in this capacity. I have been told many times that I need an ostomy bag and have refused it waiting for someone to make new drugs to help us who have suffered for years. I am toying with the idea of becoming a gastro adult np right now. I just had to write you because you too like so many others have suffered from these terrible gi diseases that are finally warenting someone to develop some new treatments. Godspeed to you. Meg

  2. I have bloody sttols and irregular bowel symptoms such as constipation or two loose stools occompainied with blood. I have had an colonoscopy and an endoscopy and was told I have internal hemhroidds. I have had one out patient procedure in ‘ruberband’ treatmeant and told I have two more in a two week period. How do I know if iam being diagnosed properly?

  3. Is this the source of my mental anquish?

  4. As someone, who has also gained “perspective” from living through the pain, anguish and mental despair from an 8 year battle with cancer. I am encouraged, appreciative and thankful for people like yourself who have the heart and soul to share your journey in a light but very real way. You inspire me.

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