In the past 2 weeks, myself, family, fiance, and people close to us have unfortunately been dealing with a lot of deaths. The veil of sadness barely has lifted before news of another set in. Most were older folks (still sad and of importance, of course) and one was my brother’s best friend and a 23 year old who, though staying strong and triumphing spiritually, mentally, and emotionally, has physically lost his 3-year battle with cancer. This one hit closest to home.
It puts a lot of things into perspective.
As someone who lives with chronic illness, many people tend to open up to me about how they are feeling, and I openly embrace and accept that. I understand how difficult it is. However, when thinking about young lives lost and people who are literally dying each and every day, and others are undergoing life-changing procedures and emergency operations, or even being killed in battle defending our country, I struggle with being able to tolerate people acting as if their lives are over because of a cold or a sore throat, and sometimes even have a hard time with people who compare their arthritis or fibromyalgia to cancer. It isn’t, and you should be thankful for that.
Yes, being sick is, of course, miserable for anyone, and all of us handle pain or sickness differently, but, there are degrees of illness, and there are degrees of complaining. Even worse than someone whining about a stuffy nose is overhearing people say that they are going to “just die” if they don’t get the shoes they want or if their significant other breaks up with them, or that they “will kill themselves” if so-and-so doesn’t go the the Super Bowl, and so on.
No, complaining isn’t a crime in and of itself, and some people do have very valid reason to complain. I won’t undermine that. I do it sometimes, and I feel given my list of health problems, rightfully so. However, even as someone who lives with daily pain and being sick all the time, I still have a VERY difficult time accepting 1) constant complaints on an every day, or multiple-times-daily basis, and 2) over-the-top complaints about, for example, a sinus headache, a toothache, or even an aching hip or wrist when there are literally people fighting for their lives at every second of the day – which is why I try to stay positive and NOT complain, even when I may want to scream out in pain.
Yes, we all want to know “why” when diagnosed with any illness, that’s only natural…but, when you think about some people - battling cancer for example, and never once uttering the words, “why me?” – it should put some things into perspective for you, for all of us. It does for me.
Someone literally told me once than they’d rather have cancer than RA. Another person online told me that they’d rather die and get it over with than continue to live with their fibro. Seriously. To me, this is utter blasphemy and is a surefire sign that these individuals just wanted attention and sympathy. Sure, I wish more people would give sympathy to those of us with chronic illnesses and conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and so forth. But, I’d rather not live my life being pitied, and, instead, want to live as best as I can given my situation. Yes, I want people to be aware of my illnesses for myself and others like me, to spread awareness and hopefully increase understanding, funding, and eventually a cure – but, I don’t want to be babied, pitied, or felt bad for. I don’t want to complain and be negative because it won’t help my situation any, and it sure as heck will irritate people who are worse off.
Arthritis isn’t a death sentence. Painful, inconvenient, and debilitating: yes. Can it be linked with cancer? Yes. Does it share some commonalities with cancer? Sure, the autoimmune forms of rheumatic illness certainly do. However, it isn’t!!!! So, the next time you’re in pain, consider taking one second – even a millisecond – to take a deep breath and, despite how much it stinks, to be grateful for the pain before you let it aggravate you and consume you – because this very pain means that you are still alive. There are so many others who aren’t and who would have loved to be in your shoes.
RA pain isn’t pleasant. Having handicaps and disabilities isn’t fair to anyone who has them. But no illnesses are “fair,” if you think about it, and, really, everyone in this world is battling their own set of problems, physical or not.
All I ask is that you keep things in perspective and learn to cope in healthful, mindful ways. I don’t want to preach the “be positive” thing 24/7 because it is impossible to be happy and optimistic all the time, and that wouldn’t even be authentic. We’re all bound to have really hard days where we want to mope, grieve, and cry over our health situations – and that’s fine – but the optimistic days should really far outweigh these “woe-is-me” days that we are entitled to. I know that it is hard, I’ve dealt with chronic illness since I was a child, and it stinks. I am not judging those who complain, just making a suggestion to try looking at it in a renewed way, from a different perspective. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but rather suggesting another way to cope that may end up being healthier for you. I am not immune to the difficulties of staying positive and I do know it is frustrating when you want to be able to exercise but can’t, or you want to be able to do certain daily activities that should be quite simple, but aren’t easy for you at all, if they’re even possible. I know there are days when we feel so down, so sad and blue, that the future seems so uncertain and distant, and when life seems so unfair, but if we take a moment to appreciate the gift of life instead of bemoaning its shortcomings, we may just be better off.
“I choose to get better, not to be bitter!”
“Focus on what you can do, not what you cannot.”
“Protect and take care of your body as best as you can, it’s the one thing that you are sure to have for your forever.”
“Don’t be bitter. Everybody suffers. If you can accept your suffering then you will understand other people better. Be grateful for pain because it means you’re alive.”
Simply, put: we should love life, and make the best of the one we have – for it’s all we’ve got…instead of asking why, consider taking charge of your life and try asking, “why not?”
Rest in Peace , Curtis Valent – you will be missed and were an inspiration to me and all whose lives you’ve touched. 12/11/1987-1/2/2011. Also, if you’ve lost someone, I hope you find peace and strength through this difficult time. This blog entry is dedicated to lives lost – those who I know and those who I do not – and to all dutifully battling cancer and/or chronic illness with a smile on their faces! (*Views are my own and do not necessarily reflect that of the Arthritis Foundation.)