I’ve spent some time this week reflecting on whether you can be happy when your body is not in the best of health. Logically it seemed to me that you can’t be.
Most of us are miserable when we have a cold or flu, and I’ve always claimed that if I’d had morning sickness with my first child then the second would never have been conceived.
However, the evidence does not support my initial thoughts.
There is a lot of evidence to show that terminally ill people can be happy and contented. Think of photos of children who have lost their hair to the brutal treatment for cancer, who are smiling in photos and show kindness to each other, their families and the staff who care for them.
There are adults who battle through enormous illness, focussing instead on the good days, the people in their lives and the gifts that they have been blessed with.
I shared a house for two years with an amazing woman with cystic fibrosis.
She spent a lot of time in the first year in and out of hospital and in the second year was waiting for a lung transplant. During that year she was away for many months when a set of donor lungs that were a match for her finally became available.
Never once did she complain, bitch or whinge. I never saw her sad or annoyed – even after one false alarm where she was fully prepped for surgery and they decided she was not a match. Not when she was unable to work for months, play sport (competition softball) or go for a walk. She never complained. She was always happy.
I only found out 18 months later that they had given her only weeks to live when the transplant finally took place.
This week she was part of the softball team that won the Queensland Cup. She played 8 games over 3 days. She said that the game is not the best part for her, it’s the memories of friendship and fun that she loves the most. She is one special person.
I give thanks constantly for my better than optimal health. I see a GP less than my regular check-ups at the dentist, ophthalmologist and for skin cancer. I do not take this for granted. I take no medication and I embrace gentle exercise and healthy eating.
The regular check-ups are invaluable in making sure everything is in tip top working order, and it amazes me that for 61 years my heart has kept up a regular beat and my lungs keep pulling in the oxygen I need.
This week I had my ego and confidence tested when I had 2 skin cancers removed – one from the top of my chest and one from my temple. Both pretty visible, and both (right now at least) pretty ugly. I was also proudly sporting a new, spring hairdo when I went and I wasn’t even phased when the surgeon took his clippers my hairline.
Not at all phased. Not disappointed. Not sad. Not negative. Not hiding away. (Personally I feel sorry for the people who have to look at me currently, but no one has complained!)
I am totally grateful for our fantastic health system that allows me to deal with issues when they arise. I am grateful for the fantastic surgeon who should get awards for the incredible stitch-work he does when he operates, knowing that in a year there will be no sign of the scarring.
I give thanks for everything that has been made available to me up to now, so that I feel good about the process and the healing.
But I do want leave you with this. Go and get regular health checks. Be proactive with your health. And most importantly, have your skin checked and never ignore even the smallest signs that something is out of whack with your body. Arresting something early can be a life-saver.