Introducing a General Health Newsletter from HealthCentral

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • The Health Central Network is launching a new feature in its weekly newsletter: a “best of the best” health-related blog, harvested from the worldwide blogosphere. If you’ve signed up to receive the free newsletter, you’ll be regularly treated to superb writing on all kinds of health and illness topics. The first post, from Canadian Lene Andersen’s blog “The Seated View,” is a wonderful example of what to expect in the coming weeks.


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    “Pluck,” Andersen’s post, is a deceptively gentle examination of how the world at large views people with health challenges. Gentle, because Andersen writes in a friendly, compelling voice; deceptive, because what she says has fangs, and she sinks those fangs deep into the neck of the writer whose book review prompted her post.

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    The book in question, Strong at the Broken Places, was apparently inspired by “people who overcome the challenges of illness.” Andersen stops and throws those words right back into the reviewer’s face. “I got a little stroppy [ornery],” she says. And goes on to decry the public’s self-satisfaction at hearing happy Pollyanna stories about the courageous fight of those of us who “triumph” over multiple sclerosis, or arthritis, or blindness, or whatever illness or condition we live with.

    I agree with Andersen. None of us invited the emotionally debilitating specter of ill health into our lives. It just appeared, unannounced and unwarranted. No one “deserves” to be deaf, or to have muscular dystrophy; it’s simply a coin toss. Maybe your fate was sealed at the moment of conception, when your destiny became cystic fibrosis. Or maybe at that moment when your bike hurdled headfirst into a car and you snapped your neck. Whatever path we take to the unwelcome state of chronic health impairment, it’s a path that can’t be reversed. There’s no “let’s go back and try that again” to cancer.

    So we carry on. We have the surgery, take the drugs, undergo the procedures, do the physical therapy, all to keep from getting worse. We don’t have any expectation of being cured, of regaining the health we once had. We just don’t want to feel any worse. We don’t want to die.

    So we keep on keeping on… hour by hour, day by day, year after year. And gradually, the challenge becomes the norm. We don’t overcome illness; we LIVE with it. None of us (except perhaps those in terrible, unrelenting pain) wants to die. And, that said, what’s the choice? Fold our arms, sit down in the middle of the path, and refuse to move? Curl up in a ball and cry for mama? Nah. We keep moving, right along with the rest of the world.

    We humans have an incredible will to live. And that includes ALL of us: Olympic athletes in perfect health, starving children, shipwrecked sailors and suburban soccer moms and every single one of us waiting for the chemo needle on a Tuesday afternoon. Message to those on the “right” side of the health line: yeah, we struggle. We fight. We muddle through the life we’ve been handed. But don’t put us up on a throne. Don’t separate us out from the rest of the herd. Because we’re still one of you. And although you (please God) will never experience the daily battle to feel OK that we do—you’re still one of us.


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    Read another breast cancer survivor's blog on "Pluck."

    Read comments from the HealthCentral community on "Pluck."

Published On: April 07, 2008